Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review
Let’s make one thing clear: the Donkey Kong Country series is one of the most unforgiving yet addictive 2D platformers ever to grace a console. Since the SNES days, this series has been showcasing graphical fidelity, incredible soundtracks and solid gameplay. This is Retro Studios’ second game in the series and it proves that they are every bit as qualified to handle the series as Rareware were back in the 90s.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the sequel to the Wii and 3DS title, Donkey Kong Country Returns. Returns was met with almost universal praise, with gamers loving how it was both intensely difficult in places and visually stunning, pushing both the Wii and the 3DS to their graphical limits. Tropical Freeze isn’t too different, with beautiful backdrops to accompany some fairly intense platforming action.
In a game like this, the storyline doesn’t really matter, but Retro explain that some ice-cold Vikings have invaded DK Island and frozen it over, forcing Donkey, Diddy, Cranky and Dixie to traverse some precarious ledges, blast out of explosive barrels and squash some rather angry looking enemies.
The new additions of Dixie and Cranky are where the game steps away from its predecessor, with both characters adding additional depth to the gameplay. Dixie’s jump offers a hair-helicopter lift, whilst Cranky’s staff (Stick? Pole? Cane?) works a bit like a pogo stick, and as such can bounce higher than his jump and can even bounce straight over spikes and thorns. Diddy returns with his signature Jet-Barrel-Pack, giving him a slight hover in midair. All these abilities help make the game more varied whilst playing, although ultimately Dixie’s jump combines the hover time of Diddy with Cranky’s jumping height, making her a considerably more useful sidekick.
Level design is pretty spectacular throughout, taking you from traditional jungle levels, forest fire stages where platforms burn away after touching them and of course deep water levels where air becomes scarce and deep-sea beasties come out to play. The levels are all challenging, even from World 1, and even the most seasoned gamers will lose a fair share of lives, especially in Multiplayer.
Perspective-shifts during Minecart or Barrel Cannon stages are interesting, but more often than not also distracting. I found it more difficult to manoeuvre around tumbling obstacles, but I appreciated how beautiful the 3D environments looked speeding past at 60FPS.
Make no mistake, this game is beautiful. Everything is smooth and crystal clear, proving that Retro Studios is a studio worth getting excited about now that Nintendo finally is in the glorious HD era. The water shimmers and shines, the enemies and playable characters all burst with personality simply thanks to their animations. This is every bit as gorgeous as Donkey Kong Country Returns was at the time, but with the extra horsepower the Wii U has over the Wii, it’s almost as if this was how they intended for the game to look.
All this praise and we haven’t even gotten to the audio. Donkey Kong Country’s original composer David Wise returns with his fantastic composition skills that helped made the SNES classic so memorable. Water levels are calm yet eerie, mine cart stages have rambunctious jazzy tunes to get tensions running high and boss battles sound just as frantic as they feel.