“Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze” is one of Nintendo’s most difficult platforming games yet released. While the “Donkey Kong Country” series has always been difficult, the latest game becomes brutally difficult early on and only gets harder from there. For hardcore platforming fans “Tropical Freeze” is certainly a fantastic experience that feels really satisfying to master, but for everyone else, the game is just too punishing to be enjoyable.
“Tropical Freeze” is the sequel to the 2010 Wii game “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” which went on to revitalize the franchise. In “Tropical Freeze,” Donkey Kong is driven out of his home by a new Viking-like army called the Snomads. Donkey Kong must island hop all the way back to his homeland alongside Diddy Kong and two new partners, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong.
After a few breezy levels in the first world, “Tropical Freeze” gets right down to business and assumes you really know what you are doing. For newcomers, this feels unfair since Donkey Kong isn’t a straightforward platforming protagonist. Donkey Kong is a very heavy character (he drops super fast) and is hard to control until you really understand how his roll move considerably expands his maneuverability.
The problem with the early difficulty spike is that it seems to assume that you’ve played and finished “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” and thus have mastered Donkey Kong already. If you haven’t played the much better paced, “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” or aren’t well versed with platformers, “Tropical Freeze” is not the game for you.
While it is a nightmare for newcomers, hardcore platforming fans will really enjoy how “Tropical Freeze” wastes no time in throwing really tough challenges at you. Most of the toughest challenges are self-imposed and revolve around gathering all of the collectibles in a level. Collecting all the KONG letters for example shouldn’t be hard since they are all out in the open, but going for them certainly puts you even more in harm’s way.
For the most part gathering the collectibles is presented fairly, but frequently enough there are times where you’ll need to die first in order to understand the right moment and position needed to grab them. The cheap deaths you suffer because of unfairly placed collectibles is immensely frustrating and is the biggest mistake “Tropical Freeze” makes again and again.
There is a lot of variety in “Tropical Freeze” because every level contains unique ideas that don’t appear anywhere else. One level sees you charging towards and eventually navigating a tornado, and the next revolves around a forest erupting in flames. The one-off mechanics in each level become all the more incredible when you realize how many levels there are. Some elements from the last game though, the rocket barrel levels for example, don’t feel quite as special the second time around, which is disappointing.
One thing that I really enjoyed about the game is that most levels often immediately present you with the choice of which partner character to bring with you.
Each partner offers their own unique abilities like Dixie Kong’s helicopter spin which increases your vertical jump, and Cranky Kong’s Scrooge McDuck-style pogo jump which lets you bounce over spikes. Having the choice really allows you to alter the feel of each level, which is a huge improvement over the original “Returns.”
“Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze” didn’t wow me quite like the first game did, but I still really enjoyed conquering all of the new levels.
RECOMMENDED: Hardcore platforming fans will love “Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze” for its intense challenge.