Published on April 2nd, 2015 | by David Dakota
Review: Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Developer: Retro Studios
Website: Official Site
Warning: This game is tough.
Way back in the mid-90s UK developer Rare set about re-imagining Donkey Kong. Despite being Mario’s original nemesis the old ape had been superseded in the evil stakes by the more menacing Bowser. Donkey Kong had been fondly remembered for primarily single screen platformers but he was down on his luck with no significant new game release for years. Thanks to rare he was promoted to lead character, positioned as the good guy and given an ensemble cast of supporting characters as Rare went about crafting Donkey Kong Country, a side scrolling platformer which relaunched and re-popularised DK. After four major releases the Donkey Kong Country subseries died off with the sale of Rare but DK continued to appear in games however nothing quite as significant. In 2010 Retro Studios resurrected the series with Donkey Kong Country Returns series, and have now followed this up with Tropical Freeze.
Tropical Freeze isn’t a huge leap from it’s Wii predecessor, there’s no new hook but it does throw in new characters and new abilities which open up some neat gameplay ideas but the game remains very familiar throughout. Donkey and Diddy Kong are joined by both Dixie and Cranky Kong who bring with them some new abilities; specifically, Dixie can use her hair as a helicopter to reach heights whilst Cranky has uses his cane Scrooge McDuck style to bounce over obstacles like spikes. This does add a little variety to the main adventure but you’ll need to master these all four characters to unlock all the secrets in the game. Like the Wii game, gameplay will throw you from foreground to background but now also includes some dynamic camera for brief sequences such as barrel blasting through a locale or classic mine cart rides. The game is challenging though, it’s yet another example of the Nintendo paradox – bright colours (arguably) aimed at younger gamers, tough gameplay aimed at experienced gamers.
It’s fair to say that Tropical Freeze looks amazing; Retro really are masters of art design. Whether it be lush jungle, hidden shrine or a wave-lapped beach every area has a unique, vibrant look and there’s a sense of scale that other Nintendo platformers don’t quite achieve. Music is superb (helped, no doubt, by the return to the series of David Wise, music maestro at Rare all those years ago), there really are some great tracks within this game – an aural treat for sure!
Two-player, local co-operative play is included but the game is simply not as approachable for casual; both players wlll need to be pretty experienced players to make the most out of the option; the game is just not as approachable as, say, New Super Mario Bros U (nor is it really designed around multiplayer, it’s a nice option to have though). Interestingly, Tropical Freeze offers up some online leaderboards for time trials through levels, this is a very welcome addition indeed if a little clunky in it’s execution.
At face value Tropical Freeze (like it’s predecessor) could be seen as an homage to a bundle SNES games, and while that’s a glowing testament to the passion and love Retro clearly have for the SNES outings, it does the game a huge disservice. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a fun romp through a beautifully realised world; it’s tough though, there’s no escaping that fact, but ultimately a very rewarding experience.
Summary: It wasn't the game we wanted Retro to have made (that'd be Metroid), but this is yet another incredible outing for our beloved gorilla.