Donkey Kong has been through a roller coaster ride of history in gaming. From being a villain in the arcade game named after him, to being a lovable side character in many different Mario titles. Yet the one series that many say is the best rendition of the character would be the Donkey Kong Country series. This series took a long hiatus after being released on the Super Nintendo and then made resurgence on Nintendo’s Wii in the form of Donkey Kong Country Returns. Now the latest addition on the Wii U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, brings Nintendo’s favorite ape back again for another kooky adventure. This time around, Donkey Kong has brought other Kongs into the mix to help fight waves of polar-themed villains from taking over his home.
Tropical Freeze has many similarities to its Wii predecessor. You control Donkey Kong with the gamepad while another player can use a pro-controller or wii remote during co-op play. Playing solo however makes things a bit more difficult for those who want a tough challenge. And Tropical Freeze throws everything including the kitchen sink in terms of challenge. Those who are normally accustomed to much more easier Nintendo platformers will end up retrying sections over and over again because of the difficulty. Playing with a friend in co-op makes things a bit easier, but there is still plenty of challenge to be had for everyone playing. It is something that the Donkey Kong Country series is notorious for throughout the years.
Unlike the previous game on the Wii, Donkey Kong’s adventure this time around has a winter theme to the levels, while still maintaining the stylized look from before. You’ll start off in the lush jungle and suddenly find yourself traversing areas with snowy mountains. The story goes that Donkey Kong’s home has been overrun with an army of winter animals, bringing with them a cold chill that turns the entire island into a polar landscape. There are plenty of nods and inspirations from other games in the series scattered through the levels, but many of the design choices are cleverly original for this game.
Donkey Kong doesn’t travel alone though. Besides having Diddy Kong as a partner, Tropical Freeze reintroduces Crank and Dixie Kong as playable characters. Each companion aids Donkey Kong in a different way besides extending his health points. Diddy can allow Donkey Kong to hover briefly, Dixie can helicopter upward with her hair, and Crank can use his gain as a pogo stick to jump higher off the ground. Choosing which partner to have on hand is key to finding different secrets in levels as well as getting over obstacles. Each partner can also be controlled with a second player during co-op and can be swapped when you find a DK barrel with the corresponding initials on it.
Boss fights are just as crazy in Tropical Freeze as they have been in older additions to the series. Knowing the pattern of bosses isn’t enough to overcome them, but adapting to changes in patterns and a keen reaction will be your greatest asset. As you play through to later parts of the game, the bosses get more elaborate and tougher. Yet every single one displays a good amount of personality and humor when they appear. Playing with a co-op partner definitely makes the fights a bit easier, but not any less the bit fun to play through.
If you liked Donkey Kong Country Returns, then you are going to have enjoy playing through Tropical Freeze. There is more of the same here from the previous game, but still enough flavor difference to make the experience enjoyable and different. There is a lot of tough end game content that will open up one you find all the collectibles scattered throughout each level, so you’ll definitely be spending a lot of time with Tropical Freeze. The challenge may detract a few out there who aren’t accustomed to it, but hanging in there reaps a whole lot of fun game. You won’t go completely bananas, but the game is a great addition to the series and brings out some of the best aspects of Nintendo’s most lovable ape.
This review was based on a retail copy of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for the Nintendo Wii U which was paid for out-of-pocket.