In 2010, Retro Studios, famous for their highly entertaining Metroid Prime series, came out with Donkey Kong Country Returns, a callback to the classic platformers from the Super Nintendo era. Breaking the tradition of the fun, but forgettable rhythm-based Donkey Konga and Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat games, DKCR brought the franchise back to its platforming roots with great-looking environments and some deviously difficult gameplay. Now, four years later, Retro is unleashing the famous ape again with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. So, does the new game deliver another memorable platforming title? The answer is a resounding yes, lightning does strike twice!
Tropical Freeze opens with the Kongs celebrating DK’s birthday (or just having a Princess Peach-esque cake party, who knows?). Suddenly, a fleet of ships piloted by an army of walrus and penguin vikings attacks Donkey Kong Island. Using a magical alphorn, the evil “Snowmads” engulf the entire island in ice and snow, turning it into a frozen wasteland (or paradise, depending on whom you ask). In the process, the group is blown clear of the island by the arctic winds. Landing in a new area already infested with the enemy forces, the Kongs must make their way back and free their home from the sub-zero prison.
The controls have changed little since DKCR. DK runs, jumps, rolls and pounds his way through the game’s many enemies, making for some simple, but satisfying platforming. I’m sure a lot of people (myself included) will be happy to hear that Tropical Freeze has pretty much abandoned the waggle controls that the previous game had. Rather than shaking the Wii Remote, players perform DK’s pound attack by repeatedly hitting the ZL/ZR buttons on the GamePad. It’s just nice to have everything mapped to buttons, rather than relying on what could be, at times, the unreliable response from the Wiimote’s feedback sensor. Though, if that’s your thing, you can still use the Wiimote with or without the Nunchuk if you so desire. DK’s blowing ability while ducking has also been removed, though I felt this was fairly unnecessary anyway, so I’m not losing any sleep over it. While Donkey Kong himself has changed little since the previous game, the new variety in the game comes from his various sidekicks.
While DKCR had Donkey Kong travel through the game solely with his buddy Diddy Kong, Tropical Freeze sees the inclusion of a few new helpers. Aside from Diddy, we also have Dixie Kong of Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 fame, as well as DK’s crotchety father, Cranky Kong, who needs no introduction. Peppered throughout the game, players will find barrels housing Diddy, Dixie or Cranky. Most of these barrels will cycle between the three, so players can choose whomever they wish to accompany them. In single player mode, the sidekick will always ride on DK’s back, giving the player different abilities depending on the Kong. Diddy plays the same as he did in DKCR, allowing DK to hover for a short time with his jetpack. When Dixie spins her ponytail, DK is able to get a little extra air, essentially giving him a second jump. Finally, Cranky takes a page from the McDuck playbook, allowing DK to bounce on his cane. This has the dual benefit of reaching much greater heights than the standard jump while also making it possible to land on spikes and pointy enemies safely. It’s possible to do everything in the game with DK alone, so having a sidekick is technically optional. However, you’ll likely want to have someone with you whenever possible to make some of the game’s trickier sections easier, and avoid unnecessary heartache. Rambi the Rhino also makes a comeback, allowing players to smash through groups of enemies and obstacles, while being virtually invincible to all forms of damage. However, getting hit by fire will send Rambi running.
The Tiki Tak Tribe of DKCR may have been a little divisive – some saying they weren’t a suitable replacement for the Kremlings – but I think everyone can agree that the Snowmad forces in Tropical Freeze are pretty varied and interesting enemies to go toe-to-toe against. Aside from the Snowmads, levels also contain standard wild animals that impede your path, as well, because… I don’t know, they hate monkeys? While most can be defeated simply by jumping on them, some have defenses to combat this, such as spiked helmets or the ability to engulf themselves in flames. The bosses make for some fantastic set pieces throughout the game. Most of them aren’t overly challenging, but they all have a fair bit of health. As such, the real test comes from being able to avoid their attacks while taking advantage of the small openings they give you for an extended period of time. Though that just makes it all the more satisfying when they finally go down, especially with the return of the “pummel (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=FyXrU606PLQ#t=175)” scene at the end of every fight.
Tropical Freeze has a multitude of secrets in each stage for players to collect, though it’s all pretty much lifted entirely from DKCR. Bananas can be found throughout each level in various bunches. In classic Nintendo platformer fashion, picking up 100 bananas will give players an extra life in the form of a red balloon. Players will also find Banana Coins littered about each stage, which can be used to buy various items at stores found throughout the game. Enemies and objects will sometimes drop health-restoring hearts, as well. Collecting bananas also has the added benefit of building up a meter in the top corner of the screen that, when filled, players can use to activate a special attack between DK and Diddy, Dixie or Cranky to transform enemies into balloons, hearts or Banana Coins, respectively. Puzzle pieces can also be found in each stage. Finding every piece in a given stage will unlock concept art for players to view. As with previous games in the series, each stage also contains four K-O-N-G letters. Finding these letters in every level of a given world will unlock the much more difficult challenge level for that world. And, boy, “challenge” is an apt description for these stages. They are in a whole other league than the game’s regular levels, requiring players to make it through some incredibly fast-paced courses and dangerous obstacles with no checkpoints or Kong barrels if they should lose their sidekick.
More Jungle Hijinx on Page 2
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