Nintendo have never been known for veering too far away from their long-time staples. The portly plumber has seen himself and his cast not only at the forefront of platformer gaming for years but thrust into other genres such as racing and even RPGS. The green-garbed hero of Hyrule meanwhile has stood for decades as part of the pinnacle of the RPG genre. Then we come to the banana lover. Donkey Kong and his family have often joined each cast of characters in other titles and recently they’ve seen something of a resurgence to their home in platforming. Their latest adventure, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is the most recent member of this blast back to their home. What’s it like though, is it worth your banana budget?
Tropical Freeze plays like you’d expect from screenshots, it’s a 3D platformer on a 2D plane. Gameplay takes place almost exclusively from the left to right as you guide Donkey Kong around levels in each of the seven worlds. These worlds range from rolling dusty plains on the Bright Savannah to the dark and heavily forested Autumn Heights with each having its own distinct feel, enemies and mechanics. The true trophy of all these worlds though is one called Grassland Grove. If I were to pick one world to play over and over again it would be this, it’s perfectly made and brings a smile to your face every moment you play.
As with any Nintendo title, the gameplay is paramount and I’m happy to announce that in this respect Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze excels — for the most part. Movement is tight as a drum and jumps are always consistent, with a little practice its almost as if you’re moving Donkey with your mind and not your hands. That might sound a little philosophical or like I’m covering Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze in an undeserving caveat for its controls but I’m speaking the genuine truth. If you’re coming to the game as a total franchise newbie though the learning curve can be a little steep at times.
During the game you’re also greeted to sequences where you sit astride a rhino or rumble across the screen in a mine cart. These don’t make the game better in themselves but instead they help you stay invested in the play by changing up the conditions and criteria enough to keep you interested. Each one of these sequences is pretty good but they do have a rather bitter taste to them. Several times during rhino-riding sequences I would fall of the rhino due to unexpected obstacles up ahead and instead of instantly failing I was left to wander along the route until finding a point which was impassable without the rhinos charge leading me to be forced into leaping off a ledge to restart. With the speed at which levels can change your first time is often peppered with deaths and failings as you learn what’s triggered during your first run through each level.
These frustrations which may be minor as you continue on through the game can become rather tiresome at your first attempts in levels. What surprised me was how frequent the checkpoints are while often being quite a distance away from difficult sections instead of being closer up. This does tie in with Donkey Kong’s past in which games have often been pretty hardcore compared to other genre stalwarts, but in the modern world where younger gamers are often thought more I can see many younger gamers becoming very frustrated by some sections. Added to that with some of the tight requirements its really not accessible to those who may not usually play platformers or be brought up on them.
You’re not just playing as Donkey Kong here though. You can add a small simian supplement to your back in the form of Diddy, Dixie or Cranky Kong to give you extra abilities. Diddy lets you hover forward after a jump, Dixie gives you a slightly delayed double jump and Cranky grants a bounce which lets you avoid spikes. In the pre release press of the game the inclusion of Cranky Kong took precidence but frankly, I only used him when absolutely necessary and always took Diddy. Then again it depends on how you play and Tropical Freeze does allow the player to choose for the most part.
The amount of content in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze around the central game is astounding. Each zone has a quad of red blocks to find to spell out KONG which are often in skill-based positions in the world to get people started on secret hunting. The puzzle pieces however are where the meat of discovery lies. These puzzle pieces can come from any number of areas be they get all the bananas in this area or drop down to a hidden area to walk through a well hidden door to find these pieces. There’s so much game play here for the ‘completionists’ amongst us that if you’ve got a WiiU and like finding secrets, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is going to give you many hours of fun.
The camera often sits a little too far away from Donkey Kong to see necessary details easily if you’re too close or too far from the screen. Add to this the lack of any explaination in general besides small controller hints – which by the way are very well implemented and timed – and multiply it by some boss fights like the owl where there’s no indication of what you’re supposed to do without dying numerous times or experimenting frequently for the sum.
Donkey Kong’s game play equates to a game which sits itself in a strange position. It’s the pinnacle of platformers while at the same time having quite a few walls put up in it for newer players. The game could likely have been made deeper and better but as it stands, if you own a WiiU, you need a copy of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze in your collection.
This review was written based on the Wii U version of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.