Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Review
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Review arrives on Switch in great shape after four years confined to Wii U, and it’s a treat to revisit. It’s a straightforward platformer packed with delightful moments, but a steady stream of peril ensures that any fun you’re having is underscored by ever-present tension. It doesn’t have as much added content as other Wii U-to-Switch ports, but even so, Tropical Freeze is an easy game to recommend.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Review
Retro Studios’ second Donkey Kong Country is best actions game doesn’t deviate too far from the series’ familiar foundation. It presents you with six worlds and a handful of levels in each, as well as a bunch of optional challenges that considerably ramp up the difficulty if you’re in the mood. You can attempt to beat stages as Donkey Kong alone, but you can also team up with his fellow Kongs: Dixie, Diddy, and Cranky. Riding on DK’s back, each sidekick offers a slight advantage that he wouldn’t have on his own; Dixie can extend the length and height of jumps, Diddy can hover in place, and Cranky can bounce off of his cane to attack enemies.
There’s also the option to play with a friend controlling one of the secondary Kongs independently from you. Surprisingly, the coordination required to find success as a pair can make things more difficult than playing alone, despite the extra set of hands.
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Regardless of how you play, the Kongs’ abilities are dutifully tested by Tropical Freeze’s tightly orchestrated gauntlets of obstacles and enemies. There’s little room for hesitation, and the emphasis on commitment is one of many factors that makes Tropical Freeze’s charming cartoon world so stressful. More often than you’d expect, platforms and structures transform on the fly, and you more or less have to rely on instincts when making blind jumps. Tropical Freeze thrives on keeping you at the edge, where death-defying performances feel like the norm. There’s practically always a twist or gimmick waiting to upend your expectations and test your reflexes.
With enough memorization and muscle memory, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty clearing the game’s main path in less than ten hours. You can, however, dial up the challenge and longevity quite a bit by making it your goal to find the many collectibles scattered throughout each level. There are coins that you can collect to purchase single-use items, but the real hidden prizes are the puzzle pieces and K, O, N, and G letters in every stage–one of the consumable items are built explicitly to help you find them, for example. Finding these will help you unlock bonus content, including extra-difficult stages in each world. These items are often situated in difficult-to-reach corners of levels, but they can also be obscured by environmental structures that you have to move, by either obvious or cleverly disguised means.
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Hunting for hidden items is usually manageable in stages where you control the overall pace. However, Tropical Freeze has many levels that scroll automatically, say, with you outrunning a lava flow, flying on the back of a rocket, or tumbling down bumpy tracks in a rickety mine cart. These can be such exacting challenges that you will most likely be too concerned with staying alive to discern a means of collecting that seemingly out-of-reach item that you so often zoom past. Of course, once you have the confidence and knowledge under your sleeve to replay a level without trepidation, the challenge of pushing yourself further than before (in different ways) makes repeat playthroughs just as exciting as the first time around.
The inspired level designs and stiff platforming challenges help Tropical Freeze hit rewarding high points that feel great after you’ve conquered a tough area. Take my advice: Jumping into Tropical Freeze with a boastful attitude that you’ve done it all in 2D platformers can lead to disastrous results. DK and the rest of this furry cast handle much differently than Mario and company. These characters genuinely feel heavier, and that emphasis on weight and momentum affects how you jump. I liked the distinct feel, and how it distinguished Tropical Freeze from a lot of platformers in the genre.
Tropical Freeze’s six islands contain some tense challenges and lots of unique level ideas. Occasionally it’ll make you want to stop to take in these beautifully crafted stages, but sometimes it used these opportunities to show off wonderfully detailed animated transitions, like when DK pulls a stub out of the ground that sprouts into a giant tree. Other times the camera would swing and move to highlight just to point out how beautiful these settings could be.
Secrets in Tropical Freeze are carefully hidden, often in plain sight. It’s the kind of platformer where I felt like I’d pounded and prodded every surface in an attempt to uncover them all, yet some still elude me.
The difficulty slowly rises as you progress, and the challenge can feel impossible times, but I found myself getting better at Tropical Freeze the more I played. The average stage is long but fun, and each one always felt achievable. To help welcome novice players, there’s a helpful item shop in each stage where you can purchase potions, balloons, and shields that will keep you alive longer. These items help alot, but I made a conscious effort not to use them. I challenged myself to finish Tropical Freeze on my own terms.
The lengthy boss fights and multitude of well-placed secrets and collectibles stand out as some of the best parts of Tropical Freeze. Boss encounters unfold over multiple phases, and in each one they adopt a new tell or move that requires careful attention. An Owl Boss in the third stage started with simple pattern of three eggs dropping from the sky, but by the third phase it turns into a Galaga-like pattern of multiple enemies that could crush an unaware Kong quickly.
Partner Kongs play a helpful role in keeping me alive, and losing them in these encounters often left me in tight situations that demanded precise movement. But there’s a cool payoff when you defeat a boss. These satisfying encounters end with a button-mashing segment – an homage to the GameCube’s unique bongo-driven platformer, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. It puts a hilarious exclamation mark on the end of a tough battle.
Couch multiplayer is a fun feature for a lot of Wii U games. Multiplayer mode is fun if you’re up to the challenge, but it demands careful and coordinated play, which is great if you have the right teammate. However, for a game built around unique character abilities, Tropical Freeze’s co-op multiplayer lacks an option for the second player to swap between Dixie, Diddy, and Cranky quickly without having to drop out completely and rejoin.
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