|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Retro Studios|
|Release: February 21, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Becky Cunningham
It's a great time to be a platformer fan, especially if you have a Wii U. 2013 brought us Rayman Legends and Super Mario 3D World, and come February we'll be getting the first HD Donkey Kong platformer, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Founded by Rare and revived by Retro Studios, the Donkey Kong Country series is known for its cute animal characters and challenging 2D side-scrolling gameplay. Tropical Freeze sticks to series formula, but adds a twist with game segments in which the camera switches perspectives and the action unfolds in three dimensions.
The game's creators wanted to feature oceanic enemies this time around, so they came up with a Viking-style group of critters led by a walrus. This tribe of nomads has taken over Donkey Kong's tropical island, kicking out the natives and leaving Donkey and his pals with the mission to reclaim their home. This journey will take the apes across five unique islands on their way back home to a final showdown with the Vikings.
Donkey will have access to three companion animals in this game. Companions can be swapped to in single-player mode or fully controlled by a second, local co-op player. Each of these companions has a special power: Diddy Kong uses his jetpack to cross large gaps, Dixie Kong swings her ponytail mid-jump in order to propel the player upward, and Cranky Kong bounces over enemies and hazardous terrain using his cane like a pogo stick. Donkey himself has his classic ground pound move that can be used to stun enemies and manipulate objects in the environment.
Tropical Freeze features a few new gameplay moves for Donkey and his pals. In a callback to Super Mario Bros. 2, Donkey will be able to pluck items out of the ground and throw them to damage enemies or obstacles. The move will also be used to throw switches and perform other acts in order to solve puzzles. Underwater sections have returned after being absent from Donkey Kong Country returns, and the characters will be able to attack underwater.
Finally, a cooperative move called Kong Pow has been added. When the player has collected a hundred bananas, Donkey and his current companion can execute an attack that kills all enemies on the screen and turns them into items. Doing a Kong Pow with Diddy results in red balloons, Dixie creates yellow hearts, and Cranky (who really does seem to take after Scrooge in the Duck Tales game) turns foes into coins.
The new camera rotation is used in various ways throughout the game. In one example, Donkey performs one of his famous barrel jump sequences in 3D instead of 2D. This means that, rather than just aiming up and down in order to move from one barrel to the next, the player will need to adjust to barrels being to the left or right as well. The bulk of the gameplay will still be in 2D, though, so fans of the classic series won't have to worry that things have changed too much.
There are several concessions here for series newcomers. The characters have three hearts per level rather than the traditional two, making a full wipeout less likely. Co-op mode features the ability for the second player to freely choose companion characters, and playing Dixie should make difficult platforming segments easier. Still, Retro isn't known for pulling its punches when it comes to challenge level, so the game should remain satisfying for expert gamers, especially those looking to grab all the collectibles and find all the secrets in the game.
Having seen the game in motion at several Nintendo events, I can report that the HD visuals are quite attractive. The game runs at 60 frames per second and the designers have done a great job with the many organic textures found in Donkey Kong's jungle world. The original composer is back for this game, which should please fans of the classic soundtracks from the original Donkey Kong Country games.
Donkey Kong may not be as famous as his former foe, Mario, but Tropical Freeze should be hotly anticipated by hardcore platforming fans. Featuring classic gameplay with some new 3D twists and a gorgeous new coat of paint, this game looks like it's keeping up the quality that the Donkey Kong Country series is known for. It arrives in stores on February 21, 2014.
Date: December 13, 2013