Donkey Kong Knows How To Heat Things Up
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze marks the twentieth anniversary of the platforming series. So it is only fitting that in the opening scene we find video game’s greatest gorilla celebrating a banana cake birthday with his primate posse. The festivities don’t last, however, as gale force winds blow in a motley crew of anthropomorphic animal Vikings called the Snowmads. Using a magical horn to conjure an intense blizzard, Donkey Kong and his pals are whooshed off their newly frosted island paradise. Now they must traverse the archipelago to reclaim their home.
Each island takes on a different backdrop, such as the European alpine and African savannah, all filled with clever and fiendish scene specific obstacles. You will literally dive into one of the game’s new features within the first minute as you are washed over a waterfall and sent for a swim. If you enjoy your quick dip, you’ll be pleased to know that there is an entire world (island) dedicated to deep sea exploration. Many of the beloved and challenging gameplay variations from previous entries make a return. On occasion you’ll get to stampede on the back of Rambi the Rhinoceros, blast through levels in the Rocket Barrel and race along the track in a mine cart. As an added “twist”, some of the mine kart sections rotate the camera to angle behind you, giving the levels a quasi-3D feel.
Diddy Kong and his hovering rocket pack isn’t the only helping hand in Tropical Freeze . Dixie Kong can spin her blonde ponytail to give you an extra vertical lift with your jump. Cranky Kong has handed proprietorship of his item shop over to Funky Kong and now gives you a little bounce with his cane/pogo stick. Having a choice of who gets to hitch a ride on DK’s back allows you to approach each obstacle differently, and the extra two health they provide is nothing to scoff at.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is as challenging as platformers get. Both the enemies and environments will keep the pace frantic. Success on your first run through of any board will hinge on your instincts. If those fail (and they will many times), victory will only come with practice and memorization of the level. The bosses are no less of a challenge. They have attack patterns that can be exploited, but throw new sequences at you as they take damage. Overall, you may get close to frustration at times, but it makes smashing the finish line barrel or knocking a boss back to Kingdom Come all the more satisfying. One thing you’ll never question are the controls. Donkey Kong ‘s movements are precise, as is expected from a Nintendo published platformer. Thus, when you’re down a dozen lives, don’t blame the controls, because they’re as tight as it gets.
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to build your supply of balloons (lives). The courses are littered with bananas, awarding you an extra life for every hundred collected. There are “K-O-N-G” tiles and puzzle pieces to collect, coins to grab and spend at the item shop and secret areas to find that take you to bonus boards or even entire extra levels. You can barrel through the campaign in roughly six to eight hours, but collecting everything will provide you many more hours of fun. Time attacks make a return in Tropical Freeze , adding even more of a challenge to snag gold, silver, and bronze medals. The best times will make the online leaderboard but, as an added feature, you can download and watch the run through of any player on the leaderboard, providing visual tips on how to shave your time down. You can also play two-player local co-op and have a friend take control of one of DK’s sidekicks. However, without an equally skilled partner, you’ll burn through your balloon supply a lot faster.
The visuals really come to life in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze . Every frame is loaded with animations, some for show and some as legitimate obstacles. You’ll get everything from the many shades of white on DK’s now frozen home, to deliciously bold colors on an island dedicated to processing tropical fruit. There are even a few close-ups to showcase the fine detailing of Donkey Kong’s fur. Nothing pushes the boundaries of the Wii U’s graphical limits, but with a screen packed with so many things, it makes past Donkey Kong Country entries seem empty by comparison.
The animations work in perfect synchronicity with the music. Every orchestration is an original tune you haven’t heard in a previous title, and they all befit each island’s backdrop. The savannah is filled with tribal chanting and alphorns are not only heard in the mountain melodies, but also act as clever obstacles with owl Snowmads bellowing through them to hinder your progress. The game’s sound effects are all recycled material, though this is nothing unusual for a Nintendo first-party title.
The list of first-party titles for the Wii U is growing, with several big titles on the release list this year. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a great way to start the year for Nintendo. It has an endearing quality that will capture you, and a challenge level worthy of even the most skilled players. The new characters and online features add just enough extras to keep things fresh. If you’re craving an old-school platformer, need a break from all the shooters and MMOs, and just can’t get enough of DK’s snappy red tie, this is an absolute must buy for you.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
It’s colorful and bursting with animation, but still feels a little dated. 5.0 Control
You will not find tighter controls on any other game, ever! 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
All the new tracks are a delight, and the score varies depending on your progression through each level. The sound effects are recycled, which is a slight disappointment. 4.3 Play Value
Every board is unique and challenging, and the new features are nice touches. You’ll love the new backdrops, but the overall gameplay has changed much from past titles. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best