May 01, 2018

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze - Review

When Nintendo brought back the Donkey Kong Country series on Wii, people were mixed, it was solid game, but nothing overly special, the announcement of Tropical Freeze for Wii U, received much the same reaction, until it was played. Here was a game that was bright and colourful, but required some pretty incredible reaction times and more, now that the game has come to Switch, how does it all hold up?

While enjoying a cake, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong discover a frigid wind blowing onto their island and as the wind picks up, they are blown clear from it. The Snowmads are coming and they brought along an icy blast to help, make the once tropical island, more comfortable for their cooler needs. Once the Kong’s land, they set about making their way back to their home and evicting the chilly freeloaders, after clearing out each island along the way. The story is the same from the Wii U, no changes have been made, which is a shame, because the addition of Funky Kong as a playable character is ignored in the story, there is nothing here that states he was blown away, just if you select his mode, you play as him.

The gameplay however is still as tight as it was on the Wii U release, meaning that from the earliest levels, you will need to make sure you learn the controls as rushing through, will likely end in your death. There are three basic moves for the characters, jump, grab and pound and combining all of these from one into the next is what is going to save you. No longer do characters just grab vines, they only do that if you hold down the grab button, let go of that button and your character does the same, likely falling into a giant hole. Being able to combine all the moves is important, but so is working with your primate pal, either Diddy, Dixie or Cranky and using their skills to get around to the hidden parts of the world.

Of course, the largest change to the game is the addition of Funky Kong as a playable character, on the Wii U release, he was limited to manning the store, but now he is ready for action, at least kind of. In order to play as Funky Kong, you need to select the Funky Mode, which will let you choose him or DK, but it is super important to note that once selected you can’t change your mind, without starting over. Once you are in the game, the extra abilities for Funky do come in handy, the no needing to stop for air when swimming, or the ability to double jump and float down are also handy, the downside is that you are not able to use any other buddies, so no Diddy, Dixie or Cranky, if you are playing solo, co-op they still exist. While Funky’s extra abilities do replace each of the buddies, it feels empty without them. Sadly, that is really the changes for the game, the levels are the same, layout is the same, items and collectables are the same, Funky Kong is the only change to the gameplay.

Presentation wise, the game looks the same as its Wii U release, the biggest change is that the load times are just slightly better. The characters, Funky Kong included look great, the fur shading is wonderful, from a distance you can see the hair moving, but when you get the close-up shots, the detail feels more alive. The levels themselves all look wonderful, complete with their many secrets, but like with the core gameplay, there are no changes here, least that I could find, none of the harder secrets are easier to spot, nor have the levels become easier, they are just the same levels that we got in the first place, which is ok. The silhouetted levels, which were cool before are still cool, but Funky stands out way more then he should, with the large white tank top he wears shining through.

The enemies are also still great, each of the smaller enemies is easily identifiable on the Switch screen when in portable mode, but still look great when on the TV. The shadow levels do have an issue on the Switch screen, but that is a Switch hardware problem, not a game issue, same thing happened at times on other games, so while annoying, it was expected. The bosses are still a hoot to look at, even if they are more trouble to fight, but the overall presentation, visually is on par with its Wii U brethren.

The music on the original release was given a massive bump, with David Wise returning and even now, years later the soundtrack is still as enjoyable as it was then. David if you are not familiar was the man behind those tunes we all fell in love with back on the Super Nintendo and hearing a more modern version of those classic tunes brings back rushes of nostalgia to me and I hope they do to you as well. While there are many instances of the classic tunes making an appearance, it is the new melodies that are incredible, mixing in the old to make something new. Again, though Grassland Groove comes to mind, just listen to it here, and you will see that the music in this game is great.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is still a blast to play today, as it was when it was first released. While Funky Kong is a fantastic addition for little ones, his appearance should not detract from the challenge, for those that are looking for one. Some minor issues in handheld mode, thanks to the Switch’s screen, can be overlooked, thanks in part to the wonderful nature of the gameplay as a whole.

Review copy provided by Nintendo Australia

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