|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Retro Studios|
|Release: Q4 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
There were plenty of whispers before E3 about what surprise game Nintendo would unveil. With Retro Studios locked behind closed doors, many assumed the secret title would be from them. But what? It was either going to be a new Metroid game or a new Donkey Kong Country game. Considering the high pedigree of each series, most would be happy with either choice, but this time around it’s DK that rolled onto the stage.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the sequel the critically-acclaimed Wii and recently remade 3DS game Donkey Kong Country Returns. This time around, though, the elemental extremes have shifted. Instead of a fiery volcano exploding with ash, covering the overworld, and Tikis running amuck, this time Donkey Kong’s island paradise is invaded by frigid Viking animals that have the intent to plunder DK’s precious hoard of bananas.
The playable demo at this year’s E3 showcased four different levels, each with a unique presentation and challenge. The first was an early world traditional side-scrolling level, though with plenty of obstacles and enemies to thwart your progress. Many elements from the previous title return in Tropical Freeze. Bananas are everywhere to collect, and objects within the environment can be manipulated through pulling and ground slaps to reveal coins and collectibles. And Diddy returns to cling to your back and provide jetpack support.
The next level was the return of the fan-favorite mine-cart ride, which, as in the past, is fiendishly tricky and requires plenty of trial and error mixed with quick timing to avoid death. Caverns crumble, the track has numerous gaps, and you move along without a brake stick to help you control.
The third level was a sampling of one of the Viking bosses we can expect to see–a massive walrus sliding between a half-pipe. After timing a successful jump, you’ll knock him into the water, where he then proceeds to throw fish and sea urchins at you before heaving himself back onto platform. The pattern was fairly simple, and he went down with little effort, but there’s still that final satisfaction when you get to pummel him into oblivion.
The final level was the toughest, but it also showcased the newest design feature for the series. The level begins with some side-scrolling, but when you start blasting through barrels, the perspective shifts as you’re launched 3-dimensionally in every direction. You’ll be launched well into the background, avoiding TNT as you go, then suddenly hit a barrel that shoots you straight down a waterfall, skipping back and forth across the river below, then bouncing between wooden planks like a pinball before smashing the course ending barrel. The pace was fast, the environments seemed massive, and the difficulty was fiendish.
Though not playable in the demo, it was confirmed that underwater levels would be included in the roster of worlds to play, though I couldn’t squeeze out an answer as to whether the glacial goons would bring with them a snowy set of boards to play. There will be two-player local co-ops, with the second player controlling Diddy Kong. As before, Donkey Kong can grab his partner at anytime, where he then becomes the bombardment specialist, launching peanuts at foes to knock them out. With single-player, you will have the choice between using either Wii Remote or the GamePad, and the game will fully support off-TV play. Dixie Kong also returns to the cast after being absent, and a fourth, unnamed playable character will be added to the roster in a future announcement.
There will be two-player local co-ops, with the second player controlling Diddy Kong. As before, Donkey Kong can grab his partner at anytime, where he then becomes the bombardment specialist, launching peanuts at foes to knock them out. With single-player, you will have the choice between using either Wii Remote or the GamePad, and the game will fully support off-TV play. Dixie Kong also returns to the cast after being absent, and a fourth, unnamed playable character will be added to the roster in a future announcement.
Retro Studios did an amazing job with Donkey Kong Country Returns, providing a level design that arguably exceeds what can be found in Mario titles. With the Wii U, all those bright colors in DK’s paradise can shine even brighter. Zoomed-in shots of our hero reveal some great texture on the fur, and the controls and animations are tight and lag free.
The four levels I tested out at E3 were only a taste of what Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has to offer. I was given fifty lives to start the demo, and I burned through plenty before reaching the end. I have no doubt the rest of game will be equally as challenging and exciting. And the best part is that we only have to wait until November before we get our hands on the full game.
Date: July 1, 2013