Just like a lot of people, I got my copy of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for my Wii U this past Friday. I am just going to cut to the chase and say you need to buy this game! This is easily one of the best games on the Wii U, and I might even say one of the best platformers of all time. Retro Studios, the developer behind this game and the Metroid Prime series, has once again crafted another masterpiece for Nintendo, and it is easily worth the $50 price tag. For this article, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of doing a straight-on review, I decided to make a list of the game’s best features. These are the reasons why this game rocks. At the end of this list, I will put down some of my minor gripes with the game, but this list will hopefully show you why this is one of the best games on the Wii U. Let’s get started!
7. The little touches
Some of the best things about any game are the little touches of detail that are put into every single part of the game. For example, the detail of the fur on Donkey Kong and his friends is amazing. The fluid motion of the hair as Donkey Kong runs through the levels is fun to look at since it gives him this extra bit of life to his character. This attention to detail also goes into the levels, like the owl enemies blowing those huge horns in World Two are actually blowing them in sync with the music in the background. Or what about in Grassland Groove where the trees bounce and dance along with the music? Little details like that really bring the game life and give it an energy that makes it fun to go through such levels. 6. The rocket barrel and mine cart levels are better than ever
One of the bigger gripes I had with the old games were the mine cart levels. They were fun for a few levels, but they then started to get harder, and they became less fun, and more about timing your jumps and getting killed if you were just a split second off. These problems were also in some of the mine cart levels for the Wii game and the Nintendo 3DS port where they were fun, but a lot of them required a bit too many timed areas of jumping and ducking that got too twitch-based. Donkey Kong Country Returns introduced the rocket barrel levels, and while the idea was interesting, the execution was not perfect, and those became my least favorite levels in that game. The controls didn’t leave me with a good game feel, and I couldn’t fully control what I was doing. In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, it seems like both the mine cart and rocket barrel levels have a much better feel overall when you are going through the levels. The levels don’t feel as time-sensitive when you jump and dodge your way through the obstacles. I felt like I died more on these levels because I made the mistake of going up or not jumping at the right time, and not because of some slightly cheap obstacle placement. 5. David Wise’s dynamic music
David Wise, for the most part, is known for his work on a multitude of games made by Rare. These include Viva Piñata, Star Fox Adventures, Diddy Kong Racing, the arcade Battletoads game, R.C. Pro-Am, and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest just to name a few of the games in his arsenal. His work is usually very enjoyable to listen to, and the soundtrack to Tropical Freeze is no different. The soundtrack to this game is filled with songs that are lively, calming, quirky, intimidating, and to a surprising degree for me, atmospheric. I just never think of a game like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze to have such atmosphere when going through the levels. You go from the free-spirit feel of the song that is in the level Grassland Grooves, to the Snowmad’s main theme in the final world where you feel intimidated and afraid to go against such an imposing force and seeing the devastation they caused your island. I hope David Wise does more fantastic work in the future for Retro Studios, or heck, Nintendo should hire him full-time for some of the projects they do. 4. None of the bosses are rehashed
A pet peeve of mine when it comes to gaming is when a game has you fight a boss that you have already fought in the past, but have to fight again. It just seems lazy, and it really drags down an experience when it feels like they only had a few boss designs so they make you fight the same ones over and over. It’s my issue with the early Donkey Kong Country games, and it was an issue I had with the last game. Thankfully, Retro Studios made sure each boss fight is unique for each island you are on. It makes it much more satisfying and victorious to encounter a new boss at each island, learn their attack patterns, and take them out without a hitch. I love it when a developer goes that extra step and makes sure each fight is unique and different. Each boss is creative, challenging, and Tropical Freeze doesn’t reuse a single boss once. Even my favorite platformer on the Wii U, Super Mario 3D World reuses boss fights. It just shows how, sometimes, the quality of the boss fight is better than the quantity of boss fights you have. 3. The game is difficult, but manageable
A problem I have with the Super Nintendo games in the franchise are that while the difficulty was welcomed, sometimes, it was a bit much. It made coming back to the Super Nintendo games a bit trickier than it should be. In past games, Donkey Kong was a bit too heavy to control, and like I said with the mine cart levels, sometimes I felt like they relied on too many quick reflexes. Donkey Kong Country Returns was difficult, but not to the point of making me pull out my hair. Tropical Freeze is pretty hard, but Retro Studios made sure that the difficulty was high, but with design choices that balanced out the more difficult areas. Unlike the previous Donkey Kong Country Returns, there is no super-guide feature. This means that if you die multiple times on a level, well, that is just too bad. You just have to get better at going through the level. Luckily, the items in the shop this time are a lot better. You have balloons that save you from dropping into the abyss, a temporary invincibility potion, an extra heart, Squawk the parrot that helps you find puzzle pieces, a shield that gives you an extra hit on the mine cart and rocket barrel levels, a balloon that gives you more air to breath, and you get the idea. Donkey Kong also has a much better feel to his controls. It feels like a much more polished experience in terms of difficulty. 2. This game has replay value worth having
For me, it seems like a lot of big developers have an issue with finding ways to extend the game’s lifespan. They either throw in a poorly implemented multiplayer, or just don’t give you anything at all. It’s like they forgot that they could make a well-crafted experience that doesn’t rely on multiplayer to extend the game’s lifespan. Heck, I think throwing in a multiplayer mode just to have one ruins the experience, like in the recent Tomb Raider. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has more worthwhile reasons to replay the game. On top of all the collectables, there are hidden paths, extra levels, and a secret world where if you complete that secret world, you unlock hard mode. Hard mode gives you only one heart, and you can’t bring items or your buddies with you. Even if you didn’t have a secret world to play through, the levels themselves are incredibly fun and satisfying to go through. I get that sometimes you need to have multiplayer if you build a game around multiplayer mechanics, but even then, those experiences like Brink end up failing on so many levels. Just make the main game worthwhile and fun, and really, that is all you need. 1. The levels are creative and memorable
I could go on about how well-executed the levels are in terms of design, game feel, music, atmosphere, and how they give off an overall satisfying experience. Instead, I am going to describe the experience I had going through one of the more memorable levels of the game, Grassland Groove. This is the first level you go through on the third island, and it is one of the best examples of how well designed these levels can be. The level starts off with the camera flying around, going past some of the enemies in the game that wave at you. Donkey Kong lands on the ground and pounds his chest. The music starts low, but upbeat. The land around you is covered in a palette of light brown with some green in the leaves in the trees. The trees themselves are moving to the groove of the music as the wind blows while you run across the ground. You pick up one of the other Kongs as you then traverse across these huge wooden puppet-like contraptions. The music slowly starts to pick up, with more chants and the light little splashes of blue on the wooden contraptions. You then need to climb on the ceiling of a rock formation, and are then launched into this parade of animal-head puppets. The music becomes more focused on the male chants, and the clink and the clank of the instruments start to pick up again as you traverse along these puppet contraptions. The music meanwhile just keeps picking up momentum. So far, emotions of joy and excitement fill your body as you then must climb on big snake puppet contraptions! The music keeps pumping you up as you navigate higher and higher, and then launched out of a barrel to the end of the level. You land on the flat wooden contraptions in front of an amazing savannah sunset. I felt like a free spirit going through this entire level, and this is just how I felt for this one level! A lot of the levels are set up like this, giving you different emotional experiences with the atmosphere, music, design, and presentation.
Like I said, there are some issues, but I found them to be very minor. The first issue is that there are a few too many menus. When you start the game you have to go through what seems like five different menus, and it just seemed like too many for the very beginning of the game. I also found the load times, while not terrible, are maybe a bit too long. They aren’t like the ones from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I guess I would rather them be at least three or so seconds long. Other than that, I have no problems with this game. I love Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I dare say that this is the best game out of the franchise. If you can, I would pick this game up as soon as possible. You definitely will have as much fun as a barrel full of monkeys.