Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (WiiU) Review
Posted by Doug Yates on 02.24.2014
See why Donkey Kong still dominates the platformer genre.
Title: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Developer: Retro Studios Publisher: Nintendo players: 1-2
Tropical Freeze will punish you, it will pull the world out from under you, it will bury you, and it will attack you with giant pieces of rolling fruit, but you will enjoy every minute of it. Those familiar with Donkey Kong Country Returns will be glad to know that not only is this comparable, it is better in many ways.
The Kongs are besieged by Viking critters at the outset, leading them to battle the cold weather minions to take back their land and their bananas. The whole crew is back for this one with the addition of Dixie and Cranky as possible sidekicks.
With only six worlds there is plenty of room for repetition, but that just is not the case here. Each level is lovingly crafted—from the music to the backgrounds—everything just meshes into a colorful and vibrant whole.
Collectables abound and are often deviously concealed. Collecting all of the KONG blocks in each world will allow you to attempt the secret stage. If each of those is beaten—which is all by itself no small feat—it will unlock the secret endgame area.
The store is run by Funky Kong this time around and offers the normal array of items, from Polly the puzzle piece finding parrot to extra lives, as well as extremely helpful new items like the blue balloon that grants you a full air meter when you run out of breath underwater.
There is also a capsule machine which you can use banana coins on to attempt to unlock “toys” of the games characters which you can view in the extras menu. These toys are won throughout the game by eliminating bosses and enemies in the various areas.
This game is hard. You will die, and you will die often, but each of those deaths is a lesson and the curve is gradual enough so as to allow you to come to grips with the controls. The hidden levels on the other hand are all out craziness and must be completed in a single life.
Each world is broken up into a series of levels that vary from running away from out-of-control forest fires and swinging on flaming vines to being chased by giant fish while piloting the rocket barrel. Each level presents new surprises and a plethora of obstacles.
The characters look great on either screen you choose to play on, with fantastic detail on the fur and the movement of the characters. The bright colors and exaggerated enemies make for a wonderfully cartoony environment.
Each of the sidekick characters has their own special abilities: Diddy has his familiar jet-pack, Dixie offers a hair copter, and Cranky can pogo on his old-monkey’s cane. Cranky is a new playable character, eliciting memories of Scrooge McDuck in the NES classic Ducktales and allowing you to bypass spikes and pummel helmeted enemies with ease.
Controlling DK feels fantastic as Retro has really tried to give him weight and momentum. Donkey Kong has a very distinct feel unlike any other platformer since it often uses the momentum of the character to overcome the obstacles. The controls are tight and responsive, allowing you the precise movements you need to get through some of the more difficult spots.
The music is an integral part of the game, often synchronizing with the rest of the world and making the levels feel as though they have an inherent rhythm. Each song is as infectious as the last with so many styles ranging from jazzy big-band to tribal drums that the only repetition you get is from playing a level again. With no real voice work to speak of, noises and sound effects are still extremely well done and often quite humorous.
The multiplayer is a double edged sword: on the one hand, having a compatriot to help with some of the bosses can be a serious boon, however trying to coordinate in the platforming levels can be an arduous experience without another well-versed player. During the rocket barrel and mine cart levels the vehicle is controlled by a single player with the exception of ducking, but failure means a loss of two lives, which adds up quickly in these fast paced areas.
• Inspired level design never lets things get repetitive.
• The music is highly infectious and makes playing all the more enjoyable.
• The characters and world look great on either screen.
• The difficulty may be a bit much for younger players to get into.
• Multiplayer is not what it could be.
Make no mistake: the cartoony nature of the game may make it seem like a game for children, but this is one of the most difficult platformers out there. Retro has done an excellent job of bringing this series forward, and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us.
Fantastic detail in both the worlds and the characters make this game a treat to watch.
Excellent precision make the difficult platforming doable with practice.
Musical score is integrated directly into levels making the worlds come alive.
Deviously hidden collectibles will keep you coming back for that last puzzle piece.
The punishing difficulty may be too much for some to handle but otherwise a hugely enjoyable platformer.