Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

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Platforming pleasure!

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo

Let me ask a serious question:

Do you think penguin would die if a gorilla jumped upon it?

“Almost certainly!” You may reply but let me ask another question:

What if the penguin was wearing a horned helmet?

Thus, we get to the intellectual quandaries you shall find yourself in should you choose to play Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

The story of Tropical Freeze is a story of animals from different climates having a big disagreement. From across the sea come a Viking clan of polar animals who kick the primates off Kong Island, before making it inhospitable to banana plants. It naturally then falls on Donkey, Diddy, Dixie and now Cranky to island hop back to their home and take it back.

With a name like Tropical Freeze you might expect a game with an awful lot of snow and ice but in actuality the island hoping takes the kongs through a variety of different environments including mangroves, a savannah and a coastal area without naming them all. These environments aren’t as typical as they may sound and each level within each world tends to be unique in its own way. My favourite area was the second world which is a beautiful green hilly environment.

I had two big problems with Donkey Kong Country Returns despite thoroughly enjoying it. One I will get to later but the first one was the lack of support for the Wii Classic controller. I had gotten more than a little sick of motion controls in 2010 and they felt forced and were not optional. Thankfully, Tropical Freeze supports both the Pro Controller and the Gamepad but also leaves in the Wii remote options. More options are always good. Single-player is still a Donkey Kong only affair with the other characters jumping on his back and lending their skills. Co-op also returns but player one is always Donkey Kong. This will be an issue with those who would prefer to play exclusively with the smaller, faster characters in single player but it wasn’t as an issue for me because Donkey Kong is the best.

The second problem I had with Returns was the music and thankfully, like with the controller options, this has been addressed in a massive way. Massive being an odd way to describe the return of composer David Wise. While I would still rate Donkey Kong Country 2 as being the high point for the series, the compositions here are a lot better than Returns. One problem with the Returns was that very little was original and while Wise does do a few remixes and throwbacks, much of the soundtrack is the best mix of new and familiar. Best of all, these tracks are unlocked in the menus as you progress.

The platforming is more or less as challenging as that of Returns. I went through everything in the original but the time attacks and my time here has felt about the same though I haven’t yet experienced all that there is on offer. The boss battles in particular were a highlight, being clever, difficult but never unfair. In fact, I generally found myself laughing when I made a mistake or died foolishly trying to grab a collectable. My whole experience up to writing has been one of consistent challenge and very little frustration. Other players may feel differently but I certainly continue to enjoy the experience and appreciate the challenge.

Technically the game is impressive, and the HD visuals really bring out the colour and style. Levels and characters have plenty of detail and smooth animation. There is a lot to look at including at least one cool easter egg I noticed in the background. The only problem (and I’m really reaching by mention this), is that the loading screens stutter and the times are somewhat longer than you would expect from a platformer. In defense, the levels are quite large and I didn’t experience any background loading or interruptions within them, even with some big transitions that happen on occasion. The game also never froze or stuttered during actual gameplay which is really important.

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze won’t surprise anyone with its design and that’s because it wasn’t designed to be anything more than a sequel to one of the best platformers of the past few years. If you love platformers, this is a hearty recommendation. It is silly and fun and while it isn’t the way games always should be, it is nice when they are.

4 Stars

March, 2014

UPDATE: 2/7/16: After replaying the game more recently I have decided to update my score.

5 Stars

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