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Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (Wii U) Review

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze manages to be bolder, harder, and overall more enjoyable than its predecessor.

Donkey Kong Country Returns proved to be a very worthy successor to the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy. It’s hard to imagine Retro Studios topping what they accomplished on the Wii back in 2010; Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze does just that. The gameplay is superb, to say the least, and is arguably even more creative than the original 3 titles. Retro creates some very out of this world platforming, and proves that the genre still has some life left in it, provided a developer has the right stuff. DKCTF also shows that a sequel doesn’t need to be completely different from its predecessor to be considered innovative and new. It flies in the face of the argument that franchises like this have become stale, when developers refuse to do things like butcher its formula.

Like most platformers, Tropical Freeze has a simple storyline that manages not to get into the way of the game itself. Dixie Kong, Diddy Kong, and Cranky Kong celebrate Donkey Kong‘s birthday. Surrounded by his family, DK marvels at his delicious cake; just as he’s about to blow out his candle, a snowflake falls on top of it dousing the flame. DK and his family look over and see viking ships headed towards their island. Their leader blows a horn, causing a giant dragon made of ice to turn their island into frozen wasteland. With the Kong clan banished from their own island, it’s up to Donkey Kong, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky to take back their homeland.


Tropical Freeze has tried and true Donkey Kong gameplay. Everything you can expect from a Donkey Kong Country game and more is present. The most notable change though, is the inclusion of Cranky Kong. This is a first for the Donkey Kong Country series. Each of the titles up until now had all manner of different playable characters, from DK’s nephew, to Diddy’s, and many more. Cranky Kong is perhaps the most unique of all the playable characters in this game. Not only can he use his cane to attack enemies underwater, he can also bounce on top of spikes with it. Additionally, his cane can penetrate armor. Dixie has changed somewhat, with her hair giving her an extra lift in the air, as opposed to making Dixie slowly descend. Diddy remains the same as he was in the first game, with his jetpack giving him the ability to hover.

It’s hard to properly describe the insanity most of the levels DKCTF has to offer; so many of them are very unique and imaginative. Retro does all sorts of things with the stages; they have you platforming on giant pieces of tangerines that are chopped up in a fruit factory, clinging to grass growing out of walls as they crumble into the ocean, jumping on debris inside of a tornado, etc. etc. They went out of their way to make one of the most outrageous platformers ever. There are 6 worlds in the game, but make no mistake, the levels are longer and harder than Returns. The difficulty is satisfying, and will make experienced players very happy. For the most part the challenge was fair, although the special stages were handled somewhat poorly. The level design exhibited difficulty much like what you would see in games made in the early to mid 1980s.


These stages mostly relied on trial and error; they were long stretches of guess-work and tedium. They’re definitely a step down from the ones in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Another aspect in Tropical Freeze that fell short was the swimming mechanics. The underwater physics felt a little loose, and you felt like you had little control over the kongs. Granted, water levels are generally more awkward than stages on land, but these ones manage to be rather un-enjoyable. If you’re not slinking along dangerously slow, you’re dashing off into a wall of spikes or an enemy. The air system was also unnecessary; the original Donkey Kong Country games didn’t have limited air supply, and for good reason. These stages work better when you’re not frantically searching for an air bubble. They’re supposed to be about patience and careful planning of your next move.

David Wise composed a delightful soundtrack for Tropical Freeze. He created nostalgic and catchy tunes for the stages as well as boss fights. All of his songs fit very well, especially when you’re up against a boss. The heavy metal playing in the background puts you in the mood to take on a polar bear wielding a giant hammer with spikes on it. Of course, a good David Wise theme is even better when you’re exploring an atmospheric world. DKCTF has plenty of beautiful looking environments. Whether you’re making your way through a savannah that’s on fire, the dark depths of the ocean, or a snowy forest, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze makes you really appreciate its world. There’s so much detail in the background that it’s sometimes tempting to just stop and observe it.

Final Thoughts

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze accomplishes what a sequel should; it manages to be bigger and better than its predecessors. It’s harder, has larger stages, better music, and is more appealing aesthetically. Even with its faults that weren’t present in the first game, Tropical Freeze’s positive aspects still outshine Returns on the whole.

If you have a Wii U, or are thinking of getting one, I highly recommend you pick up Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.

About Christopher Deleanides

Well, my name's Christopher Deleanides as you all know and I'm the Nintendo Editor here at BG. I've been playing video games since 1992, and I've been a Nintendo fan the entirety of those years. My love for video games as well as Nintendo hasn't changed, and probably never will. The only thing that comes close is politics, as I'm very deeply involved in both local and international issues.

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