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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

 

Originally released in 2014 on the Wii U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze now arrives on the Nintendo Switch for tough platforming on the run.

The game starts off on a celebratory note- it’s Donkey Kong’s birthday! While celebrating, their island is frozen over and the Kong’s are blown away and must spend the rest of their adventure making their way back.

Like the SNES Donkey Kong games, you’ll be playing this one on a 2D plane with some visually awesome 3D elements.

A New Challenge

If you ever played the Wii U version, or the prequel released in 2010, you know not to take this game lightly! It’s still damn hard, but it’s not the actual platforming that’s necessarily hard, it’s Donkey Kong and his excessive weight! Everything from his movements, to his jumping, you can feel he’s a much heavier character to control than your usual platforming hero.

It will take time to get used to, as you’ll need to master both the speed and momentum of Donkey Kong in order to survive. While this is fine, I do wish the challenge came more from the levels themselves, rather than Donkey Kong’s sluggish movements.

The Whole Kong Family

Luckily Donkey Kong will receive help from his other Kong friends. When you find a Kong barrel and break it open, you’ll gain a helping hand from whichever Kong’s initials were on the barrel when you break it.

Unfortunately you don’t actually get to play as any of these Kongs (unless you’re playing multiplayer), they only sit on Donkey Kong’s shoulder and generally help him with his jumping.

Diddy Kong wears a jetpack and allows you to glide for a second before descending. Cranky Kong (yes that’s right, Cranky Kong is actually helping time!) uses his cane to bounce higher than your usual jump, and allows you to jump on dangerous surfaces.

My favourite Kong was Dixie, as she uses her ponytail to give Donkey Kong a small thrust in the air before slowly gliding back down. Her ability is reminiscent of how Yoshi jumps, if that clarifies it a bit.

Exclusive to the new Switch version, you can play as Funky Kong, in a much easier version of the game- called Funky Mode. In this mode, Funky Kong has a whopping five health hearts, as opposed to Donkey Kong’s two in the normal mode. He can double-jump, temporarily float in the air, stand on spikes, and breathe underwater for as long as he wants. Believe me, this is a much easier mode, so if you’re really struggling with the normal mode, consider giving this a try.

Collectibles Galore

True to any platformer, there are plenty of collectibles, even more so than your usual side-scrolling game. There are the small bananas for giving you extra lives, coins for purchasing items, well-hidden jigsaw pieces, and the KONG letters scattered throughout each level.

What I really liked about the more hidden items (like the coins and jigsaw pieces) where sometimes you’ll need to complete a little puzzle in order to acquire them. There may be something sticking out of the ground which needs pulling out. Once you do, a row of bananas may emerge and fly around the area, requiring you to collect them all before they disappear and you’ll be rewarded with something better. It’s those little moments of discovery that were the highlight of the game for me. It just rewards you well for exploring.

There are separate mini stages within each level which are generally fun to complete too, rewarding with jigsaw pieces or plenty of extra lives.

If you don’t collect everything in a level, it is recorded so you can see what you need to go back for, if 100% completion is your thing. I personally never felt motivated to go back and collect everything as it never really felt worthwhile.

You Can’t Teach An Old Monkey New Tricks

Even though there’s been a lot to like about this game, my main criticism is that I feel like I’ve done it all before. If you’re absolutely craving another level to level platformer, then I absolutely recommend it.

For me, I found myself losing a bit of interest as the game went on because it wasn’t incredibly original. There are a couple of new ideas here and there, but not enough to make it feel like a fresh experience.

You’ll be playing the game on a similar map to the old Donkey Kong games, where you walk along the path to each level, occasionally unlocking secret levels along the way. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that it didn’t really innovate in its level structure, but it would have been nice to see something different. But like I said before, if you’re excited by this style of platformer, then go for it!

I will praise the boss fights though as they require many more jumps on the head to defeat them. But because the fights are a bit longer, there are more phases for the bosses to go through, constantly making you adjust to their attack patterns. It makes for a more epic battle and I really enjoyed them.

When the next Donkey Kong game comes around, I’d really like see something a bit different. The last two games have been fairly similar, but I’d love to see a reimagining of something like Donkey Kong 64, or just something more outside the box. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is still a well polished, fun, and challenging game, but it just gets a bit tiring after a while, just like Donkey Kong’s slow movements!

Score: 8.3 /10

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