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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review – Tough As Nails


In 2010 Nintendo managed to offer a bit of a surprise to fans at E3 that year in the form of Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii; a new entry to the series by the house that Metroid Prime built, Retro Studios. It then saw a re-release on the 3DS in mid-2013, with a stereoscopic upgrade but many couldn’t look past the technical flaws that arose during the porting process. This year, we’re treated to a full-blown HD sequel on the Wii U, titled Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

As the title suggests, the Kongs’ tropical paradise has seen an arctic change, as a bunch of new animal baddies have come to steal away our heroes’ luscious supply of bananas. Of course, this is enough for Donkey, Diddy, Dixie and Cranky to set off on setting things straight by bashing their way through various islands that have been inhabited by unwelcome fauna.

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The original re-entry to the series prided itself on being a return to form in challenging Nintendo sidescrollers. Where Nintendo was making accessible platformers in the form of New Super Mario Bros, Retro Studios was tasked with recreating the tough-as-nails approach made popular by the 16-bit DK Country series on the Super Nintendo. And if you’re into that sort of thing, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is right up your alley.

In fact, the game is often so difficult that playing in 2-player co-op can make the experience harder, as much of the gameplay relies on pattern memory and quick reflexes, two things that can be ridiculous to organise with an extra person.

Graphically, the game looks fine. If you’ve played the Wii/3DS game, it looks very similar, except in a higher resolution with nicer effects and textures. However unlike the 3DS game, and thanks to the Wii U’s upgraded horsepower from the Wii, Tropical Freeze certainly looks better than Nintendo’s other platformers, though not entirely groundbreaking compared to the rest of its contesting generation of hardware. That said, Retro is capable of some fantastic artwork, and there are some levels that look stunning artistically.

Where Nintendo was making accessible platformers in the form of New Super Mario Bros, Retro Studios was tasked with recreating the tough-as-nails approach.

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Believe or not though, the game will likely stay with me longer for its soundtrack. It features some similar tunes that have been in the series since its beginning, but there are some new tracks that bring out that Nintendo charm.

And speaking of new, the game adds a new playable character who’s been sitting on the sidelines for decades: Cranky Kong. While Donkey is known for being a brute; Diddy (recently becoming) recognised for his jet-pack and peanut gun abilities; and Dixie for using her long hair as a propeller to jump higher, Kranky offers a pogo-jump with his cane and the ability to throw his false teeth at enemies. And that’s about it. In terms of gameplay, Tropical Freeze doesn’t really innovate, and instead adds a fourth character.

As a whole, the Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a completely familiar experience in regards to the platforming genre. Sure, the game will deviate from just straight platforming with the mine carts/swimming stages, but these are aspects of the games we’ve grown accustomed to. And while robust in its offerings, it’s essentially more of the same, which may not deter a lot of people. To be honest, it really shouldn’t, as what’s here is a good game that doesn’t condescend the player with any hand-holding or help modes. However, the next game (which, let’s face it, is gonna happen) will likely need some new gameplay hooks to lower it’s risk of becoming stale like the New Super Mario Bros games have become.

The Good

- Great artwork.

- The usual charm of a Nintendo game.

- Tough, but rewarding when beaten.

The Bad

- Some stages can be aggressively difficult, especially certain boss fights.

- Nothing particularly new to the formula.

- Will ruin relationships.

Final Thoughts

If fun, colourful platforming games that challenge those reflexes of yours is your thing, then don't look any further than this entry to the Donkey Kong Country series. There's charm, great stages and their secrets to discover, and some ridiculous boss battles to overcome. However if you're aiming to get in on the co-op, I'd advise pairing with a friend of a similar skill level to your own, or perhaps a girlfriend/boyfriend that you'd like to have a reason to break up with.

Overall Score 4