Donkey Kong Country returned on the Wii a few years ago with the aptly named game Donkey Kong Country Returns, which acted as a welcome refresher to the classic games of the series that came out for the Super Nintendo in the mid 1990’s. It was a return to the side-scrolling mayhem with solid level design, memorable boss fights and a slew of collectibles for players to try and discover. Now, Donkey Kong Country is returning (again) in the form of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The results? Improvement in every single area possible.
The thing that immediately grabs your attention is the game’s beautiful graphics. As we witness the opening cutscene in which Donkey Kong’s island is frozen by the Snowmads, everything is beautifully rendered in glorious HD. Donkey Kong’s hair looks so real for goodness sakes, and all of the tropical and vibrant elements that this game’s setting naturally has makes everything stand out even more. There is no denying that this game looks gorgeous, and really showcases what the Wii U is capable of with a decent developer and full HD-capabilities.
This all goes into the game’s level design. If you’re a fan of the series, you know that you spend the majority of the game making your way through side-scrolling levels in which you must avoid perilous enemies and obstacles. In this game, the level design has been ramped up A LOT, as many of the levels in this game are masterfully-crafted. Throughout the game’s six worlds (and 1 secret world) you are constantly treated to levels that are extremely challenging and rewarding when you do finally conquer them. As you try to best each level you are also inclined to collect the K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces to unlock even more Donkey Kong goodness.
The true standout, however, is the game’s boss-fights. Once you finally get to the end of each of the 6 worlds yout are faced with a boss fight that is always incredibly challenging but also really fun. They include several phases in which the boss will change his strategy and you quickly have to adapt and learn his different patterns. I love how much of a challenge these dudes offered, because they take many hits to take down and it really forces you to execute your plan perfectly or else you have to start all over. This definitely isn’t a game that adheres to the hit-him-3-times-and-he’s-dead rule, so be prepared to get your butt handed to you many many MANY times.
You traverse each world on the familiar world map that is very similar to the maps found in the New Super Mario Bros. series. Each world map contains several dots and each dot is a different level (main or hidden), and if they’re not levels then they’re Funky Kong’s shops. That’s right, Funky Kong is back! When you come across Funky Kong’s shops you are given the option to buy a bunch of different things to help you on your journey; such as extra lives, hearts and increased under-water breathing capacity. You can also buy action-figure collectibles of the various characters present in the game, and all of these items are purchased by coins that are scattered throughout the game’s levels.
Luckily, Donkey Kong gets a little help from his friends as he traverses the many different challenges that this game throws at him. Throughout each level you will come across barrels that will spin between 3 possible prizes: Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong. Each character brings their own set of abilities to help Donkey Kong out of some tight situations: Diddy Kong uses his jetpack which adds the ability to hover over a stable path, Dixie Kong adds the ability to fly and reach higher spots, and Cranky Kong uses his tail as sort of a pogostick to allow Donkey Kong to bounce over obstacles. I found Dixie Kong to be the most useful, because (as is the case with most platformers) it is crucial to be able to get as much air time as possible to make sure you land in the right spot.
One last thing that has to be noted about this game is its terrific score. The awesome composer David Wise, who composed the score for the original 3 Donkey Kong Country Game’s but hadn’t done a major video game score in over 10 years, has returned to the series that made him famous with this game. His presence is felt constantly, as every level has a very catchy and impressive track to go with it. There was actually a song that popped up at the beginning of the second world in this game that actually gave me goosebumps because it was so freakin’ beautiful. Mr. Wise, it is great to have you back on board.
Condemn (OR) Condone:
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fantastic game that really showcases what the Wii U is capable of. The graphics are breath-taking, the score is jaw-dropping, the level design is ridiculously clever and the challenge that the game brings to the table is consistently on a level that is met by few other games these days. Tropical Freeze improves upon the already solid Donkey Kong Country Returns in every possible way, making this a must-own game for any Wii U owner.
[Note] The judgments are the following:
Condemn – Hate | (O) – Dislike | (OR) – Indifferent | (R) – Like | Condone – Love