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Donkey Kong’s home has been taken over by vikings! It’s up to the main Kong to take back the jungle! But first he must battle his way across several islands before he’s back to Kong Island for the final showdown.
My first thought upon loading Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was that it’s sooo pretty! It’s likely not the prettiest game to exist, but as a long time DK fan, I have never seen the game look this good. I’m use to the old school graphics of the SNES or the wonky 3D renderings of Donkey Kong 64 (my all-time favorite game). This is just leagues above anything in the franchise.
Oddly enough, my favorite visual from this game is when you reload from a checkpoint. DK or (Funky) will float down into the level with a red balloon. It’s such a cute touch that makes the balloon lives make sense!
Sound Effects + Music
The classic Donkey Kong theme is back but slightly remixed. It sounds new and modern, but still recognizable and brings back so many memories of long afternoons playing Donkey Kong Country on the SNES and my Gameboy Advance. Of course, there’s also new music to accompany the new worlds and they fit in perfectly.
My favorite musical moment is during the water levels, because it brought me right back to playing Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Quest and those stressful underwater levels with lava! Well, there’s no lava water in Tropical Freeze, but there’s plenty of other hazards to avoid. The music was perfect.
Gameplay + Controls
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is tough! I should have realized that when the game opens and asks if you want to play “Funky Mode” which is easier and provides more help. I opted to stick with “Original Mode” as that seemed like how the game was meant to be experienced. I quickly wished I had taken the easier route! The game isn’t crazy difficult, especially for experienced platformers. While I love me some platformers, I’ve mentioned that I’m actually not that good at them. That doesn’t stop me though!
After dying approximately 30 times on level 2-2, I admitted defeat and checked out Funky Mode. I also opted to play as Funky Kong, which turned out to be an excellent decision on my part. With Funky, you get five health hearts instead of two (or four if you have Dixie, Diddy, or Cranky with Donkey), and he can double jump and hover on his surf board. And if you still die too many times, the next level still unlocks and you can come back to the one giving you trouble later (or never!). All of these perks came in handy! I still wouldn’t call the game easy, but it’s much more manageable while still providing a challenge.
An interesting thing to note about Funky Mode is that you can technically beat the game without ever finishing a single level except for the boss battles. If you die enough and keep unlocking the next level, you can just keep on going. Of course, you’d likely have to game over many times since you won’t have enough lives to just blaze through. I don’t know why you’d want to do that though.
The controls are a bit finicky and hard to get to use to. The basic controls for walking, jumping, and swimming are perfectly fine. The problems arise when it comes to rolling versus pounding. Both actions use the X or Y button, so it’s extremely easy to do the wrong action. If you want your Kong to pound the ground which is required quite often, you have to completely stop moving. If you press X/Y while still pressing the joystick, the Kong will roll instead. I rolled off plenty of ledges by not being careful.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze also has secret levels, which can only be accessed if you find the alternate exit in certain levels. I only found this out, because I accidentally stumbled upon one of these exits (they look like glowing portals) and ended up getting an additional stage! This adds several additional levels increasing the play time.
My only real complaint about this game is the final boss. Yes, it’s hard, but I was expecting that. What I didn’t expect was the wonky hit box on the boss. Not only is he simply hard to jump on, but even when it looks like you’ve landed on him to cause damage, you don’t. There were a couple of times when I went through him, landing no damage, and a couple of times when I took damage. I suppose with the latter it could have been a case of landing too close to his horns. But that’s still probably due to the hit box being weird. It was extra frustrating.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has a several collectibles which you will miss on your first playthrough. There’s the usual K-O-N-G letters, some in easy to reach places, some that require more skilled platforming. The new addition is the puzzle pieces. Each stage has up to nine of these, but they’re not just floating around. There’s some minor puzzle solving to get some of them, as well as simply collecting/destroying all of something to make one appear. Bonus levels also give a puzzle piece if you successfully complete them. If you don’t you don’t get to try again without exiting the level and restarting.
All of this lends itself well to multiple playthroughs, since you will miss a lot in the first attempt to just beat the game. Sure, you can go back and replay levels individually to grab what you missed, but the case can also be made on playing again and getting everything in one go.
You’ll also have the option to play in either Original Mode or Funky Mode (with Funky or with Donkey), whichever you didn’t start with, giving you three unique game experiences.
Despite Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze really testing my limited platforming abilities and killing me over and over, I could not be happier to be back in DK Jungle with my favorite simians! The game is gorgeous, the music is great, the gameplay is challenging but engaging. It’s just an amazing game.