REVIEW: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze | Minecart

What does this sawmill make?!

It’s a good thing it’s so easy to accumulate lives, because you are going to need them. Tropical Freeze continues the tradition of fast-paced and truly challenging platforming. While most of the game’s standard enemies aren’t too difficult to take down, much of the game’s challenge comes from effectively weaving between those enemies and various pitfalls, spikes and other traps to get through unscathed. Like the Wii game before it, the Kongs in Tropical Freeze each have only two hearts to their names. DK and his sidekick essentially pool their health, increasing the amount of health to four. When taking damage, the sidekick suffers the effects first. Once two hits have been sustained, they will be knocked out of the game, forcing DK to continue on his own. The game is also two-player, allowing someone to control the sidekick of their choice, but this can be a double-edged sword at times. Every time either player dies, a balloon is used up, so, if either one dies often, you may run out of lives before you know it. Additionally, if at any point both players die at the same time, they will be taken back to the last checkpoint, and will cost two more lives, rather than just the one in single player. After giving it a fair bit of thought, for all the challenge that Tropical Freeze offers, I’d say it’s just a bit easier than the previous game. However, it’s tough to say if that’s because it’s genuinely less difficult, or if the game just has fewer downright unfair platforming sections than DKCR, but I’ve never held it against a game for not holding my hand. Any time you die, you know it’s your fault, not the game’s. Either way, I found I didn’t want to snap my controller in half nearly as often as I did during DK’s last outing.

As I already mentioned, the Banana Coins that players find can be used at Funky Kong’s Fly ‘n’ Buy stores found throughout the world map. I guess with Cranky giving the Snowmads what for, someone had to run the shop. These stores stock a nice selection of tools intended to give players an edge in just about any situation. Players can buy Red Balloons, which work exactly the same as the extra life balloons found during gameplay. Green balloons will save you from the game’s many pitfalls, which are a boon, as they probably made up most of the deaths I experienced. Blue balloons can also be purchased, which will give you extra air underwater. That’s right, in a game where a tie-wearing ape fights walrus vikings, holding your breath is where they decided realism was important. Players can also buy items that give temporary health boosts and invincibility, and different sidekick barrels that can be used at any time. Squawks the Parrot is also available here. When used, Squawks will alert players when hidden puzzle pieces are nearby. Probably the thing I spent most of my money on, however, was a capsule machine that gives you various character figurines. The toys you get are randomly selected, so you’ll likely have to sink quite a bit of money into the machine if you want them all. It’s a nice addition to gameplay, and I felt my purchases were a bit more significant than just balloons and keys in DKCR.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze | Snaggles

Granted, if I was a shark, I’d be pretty dang happy, too.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze | Barrel Rocket

This scene is all kinds of ridiculous.

As far as I’m concerned, Retro Studios nailed it again in regards to the game’s art style. There’s a pretty noticeable graphical difference between the Wii game and Tropical Freeze in terms of character detail. Character models and environments are delightfully cartoony, colorful and well-animated. Heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing a TV show that looked like this, but… maybe a good one this time. There is also a lot going on in terms of gameplay and happenings in the background than the last generation probably could have handled. The game is also pretty heavy on using a 2.5D viewpoint, which is especially evident in the minecart and rocket barrel sections. Not only does it let you see what’s coming up in front of you, it really allows you to enjoy the environments that much more. Island-jumping as you work your way back to Donkey Kong Island also means that there’s a lot of variety in the environments. For a game called “Tropical Freeze,” you don’t actually see a whole lot of snow. From classic jungle environments to temperate forest settings to the more industrial tones later on all the way to the icy Donkey Kong Island, the spaces that players traverse are always a joy to explore.

The music, too, was fantastic. While DKCR spent a lot of time remixing tracks from previous games, Tropical Freeze’s soundtrack has quite a few more original tracks. Granted, some of the classic tracks are used again, such as the Rocket Barrel theme, and the incredibly memorable underwater theme from the original Donkey Kong Country, but, considering how much of the game’s music is made up of original compositions, these felt more like nostalgic returns and less like simple recycling. Even the classic Donkey Kong Country theme has been replaced with an original track with a more tropical tone. As strange as it may sound, this ended up being my favorite track out of the whole game:

Tropical Freeze did a fantastic job of continuing the standard set by Donkey Kong Country Returns. Not only is the game easy on the eyes and ears, the gameplay is fast-paced and challenging, but not so much that it feels unfair. If all you want to do is beat the game by taking the shortest possible path, you can complete it in around eight hours. However, there’s a ton of extra content that fans owe it to themselves to experience. Determined explorers will find secrets all over, with paths to alternate levels, bonus stages and puzzle pieces as their rewards. For you competitive players out there, the game also features a Time Attack mode for every stage you’ve completed, so start posting your best times. Plus, completing the challenge levels yield Mysterious Artifacts which, when all of them are collected, will clear the way to final secret world for players to conquer. For a game this fun, with this much content, it’s more than worth the price of admission.

Review Score

Game was purchased by the reviewer.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Donkey Kong Country Returns are available on Amazon:

About Tyler Lubben

Tyler is a lifelong gamer, getting his start on the Intellivision when he was three years old. After receiving his English degree, he discovered all those jokes about getting a job in his field were true. As Head Editor with oprainfall, Tyler is able to bridge his two passions; playing and talking about video games at any given opportunity, and being a total grammar nazi the rest of the time.

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