Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

Introduction

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a side scrolling platformer and was developed by Retro Studios for the Wii U in 2014. It was then ported to the Nintendo Switch in 2018. Both versions were published by Nintendo.

Review

DK is having a party and decided to invite all of his friends. But in the middle of the festivities, some animals are on their way to his island, to cause mischief and mayhem! As if that’s not bad enough, the evil penguins and walrus turn his island into a winter wonderland and knock him and his crew away from it for good! At least so they think.

Blasted off onto a tropical island, DK and his friends make their way back to their rightful island to take it back! This iteration of Donkey Kong brings it hard. From the level design to the difficulty, to the remixes of classic music! There’s not much story here, but it makes up for it so much. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, when you got a buddy barrel, you only got access to Diddy Kong. DK’s lifelong friend and sidekick. But in this one, the ante is upped, and everyone else joins along! So you get Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong, and each of them have their own unique abilities. Also new to the Switch version, you can play as Funky Kong. So if you don’t want the frustration of dying, or not making some jumps, you can play as Funky, who can’t die, and gets to hover for a super long time!

Now I talked about how the level design in Donkey Kong Country Returns was phenomenal once I started getting into it. Well Retro Studios took that awesome design and cranked it up to 11! The levels are absolutely incredible in this entry. Whether you’re bouncing off windmill blades, or running through dangerous temples, I couldn’t stop being amazed at every single turn, and there are a lot of levels to be amazed at. Each world even has some secret levels. Some through hidden routes, which were a pain to find, until I finally understood what I should be keeping an eye out for. So that path in the water where I need Dixie Kong’s ponytail to swim through? Secret exit. That random banana off the mine cart track near the end? Secret exit. It was exciting to learn it all! There’s even super challenging levels that unlock a secret world if you gather all the KONG letters from every level in a world.

At first I told myself I was just going to beat the game. Nothing extra. But as the levels were ramping up, I realized I needed to see it all. I’m glad I did. Especially because of the Kong levels. When I finally unlocked them, I was excited to see what they would be. They were brutal challenges, with no checkpoints and hellish designs, that were so satisfying to finally overcome. I spent upwards of an hour on some, trying to beat them, because I wasn’t good enough. So I had to try and try again, and better myself. Like one where the whole level is basically bouncing off enemies. But you had to jump just before you hit them, for that extra height and distance. If you didn’t get it, you died. Or a level where platforms are constantly moving or falling away, so I had to learn to move fast, and when I could jump right after landing another. All of these levels helped me prepare for the secret world that contains 3 even more excruciatingly hard levels that were so fun to complete. Except all I got in return was Hard Mode. I was bummed, sure, but I was so happy I made it through the challenges.

I still wasn’t that used to the controls though. As when I play side scrollers, I’m used to always holding a button to run. In this, just like the previous entry, running is automatic. So when you hit what would be the run button, you roll. Sure if you jump while rolling, you get extra distance, and I had to use it to clear some jumps in challenge levels, but for the most part, I’d roll unintentionally into danger! Which of course is my own fault. But when I was rolling into danger, at least I was listening to some sweet remixes of classic music the whole time! The music is perfect for every level, and I found myself standing still sometime, just to hear old music from the original Donkey Kong Country. I loved it so much.

The one negative this game has, are the boss fights. There is one for each world, and they suck. Sure the fights are hectic and well designed, but the execution is just a little too intense and they stretch on for ages if you don’t hit the bosses every chance you get. Now most bosses in sidescrollers take 3 hits. It’s just how it is. I was so used to this, that this game threw me for a loop by making me hit a boss 9 times to finish it off. You dodge the attacks, hit it back, then take your chance for real damage. But again, you miss the chance, and you have to do it again and again and again and again, until you’re at your wits end, just wanting the fight to end so you can move on!

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Best Levels Design Of The Series
  • Fantastic Remixed Music
  • More Companions
  • Challenging Levels

Cons:

  • Boss Fights

Summary

Retro Studios hit it out of the park with this entry. I cannot wait to see what more they’ll do with Donkey Kong and his pals. The levels and music were top notch, with challenging levels if you wanted them. The only annoyance were the boss fights, but outside of those, this is one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, and I urge everyone to pick it up.

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Game & Developer Information

Developer Website: Retro Studios
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: Nintendo
Publisher Socials: Twitter

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – Overview Trailer – Nintendo Switch

Published by oniwalker

Co-owner of NodeGamers(dot)com. Reviewer and Guide Writer. I'll play just about anything as I cry about my backlog!

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