Donkey Kong Country is a platform game where players must complete 40 different side-scrolling levels (or 41 in the Game Boy Color version) and recover the Kongs' banana hoard, which has been stolen by the Kremlings. Each level is uniquely themed and consists of varying tasks such as swimming, riding in mine carts, launching out of barrel cannons, or swinging from vine to vine. The player begins with a minimum of six lives. Players lose a life if they get hit by any enemy or fall off the screen. To defeat an enemy, players can either execute a roll, jump or hand slap (a move only usable by Donkey Kong). However, some enemies cannot be taken down in this manner, so the player must throw a barrel or use the assistance of an animal. Enemies vary in difficulty, usually becoming tougher to take down as the game progresses. When the player has lost all their lives, the game is over. However, the player can gain additional lives by collecting items scattered throughout the levels, including bananas, golden letters that spell out KâOâNâG, extra life balloons, and golden animal tokens that lead to bonus levels. There are also many secret passages that can lead to bonus games where the player can earn additional lives or other items, as well as gain possible shortcuts through the level.
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