GAME NAME: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
DEVELOPER(S): Retro Studios
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
RELEASE DATE(S): February 21st, 2014
The Donkey Kong Country series has come a long way since its SNES debut back in 1994. While many of the same core elements still apply in this modern day take on the retro classic, Tropical Freeze is the product of the franchise going from strength to strength, using tried and tested platforming fundamentals.
It’s needless to say that Donkey Kong and his over enthusiastic sidekick, Diddy Kong, are back. Joining them, once again, is Dixie and the ill-tempered Cranky Kong. Depending on who Donkey Kong is paired with will determine the unique power up capabilities of the duo. On an individual basis, Diddy Kong will assist in jumping further with the help of his jet pack, Cranky will bounce over obstacles with his pogo cane (seems familiar doesn’t it?) and Dixie will escalate Donkey Kong to new heights with her improved jump mechanic. In the single player mode of the game, the secondary character assumes their traditional role as an extension of Donkey Kong himself by riding along on his back. When playing co-op, however, the character plays alongside Donkey Kong and has free reign unless one specifies for their players to merge. This forces players to be in sync and could possibly lead to newly formed sibling rivalries or strained friendships.
As expected, the visuals are crisp, colourful and beautifully rendered. The camera angles change during a level to bring the environments to life and keep things interesting. These changes are often as a result of Donkey Kong being shot from a barrel or racing through an abandoned mine. The soundtrack is reminiscent of that found in Donkey Kong and previous ‘Country‘ titles. The bongo drums combined with the screeches of the well voiced cast is well executed as each character, while being gorillas, has their own unique sound and it gives them an individuality among their group.
The levels in Tropical Freeze aren’t consecutively difficult. You are looking at a ratio of around three fairly simplistic levels for every challenging, hair-ripping travesty of a level. While the before mentioned ‘easier levels’ might be quick to complete, there are the returning KONG blocks and puzzle pieces to collect. Collecting these additional items will immediately change your strategy from flying through a level to completing the stage at a crawling pace. Collecting these items unlocks hidden levels and takes Donkey Kong on an alternative, less used route ultimately concluding with the island’s boss fight. In true Donkey Kong fashion, the boss fights are a treat… very often a torturous masochistic treat but a treat never the less.
Many would assume that having an abundance of lives would make the game a breeze to complete, and for the first two or so islands, you’ll more than likely think something along the lines of: “I was raised on these classic style platformers and in my day we only had ten lives to waste at most. This will be a cinch.” Progressing through the levels will soon have you stopping off at Funky Kongs make-shift shop for supplies and additional lives. Overall Tropical Freeze has less worlds than Donkey Kong Country: Returns, however, in this case less is more. Each level has been designed to near perfection, and while unlocking all of the stage’s hidden secrets and items might be ridiculously difficult at times, it does add to the overall replay value of the game.
Nintendo’s first party platformers have dominated the genre for many years, especially in the 2D/2.5D space. With tough competition in recent times, specifically from Rayman Origins/Legends and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, it is pleasing to see that Nintendo is pulling out all the stops and not just relying on their licenses and hashing out yet another Mario title. Retro Studios has always been at the top of their game, and, once again, they don’t disappoint having created this modern day masterpiece. It’s no secret that the Wii U is severely lacking in titles, but Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is here to reassure you that, once again, Nintendo’s first party titles are clearly about quality over quantity.