REVIEW: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The next must-have title for the Wii U is here. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a continuation of the Donkey Kong Country series with great gameplay, beautiful graphics, complex level design and an addictive quality that makes you want to finish each level no matter how many times you ride that extra life balloon. This is the first high-deffinition Donkey Kong game from Retro Studios, that was originally set to release in November 2013. The game was held back to get in some final polishes and I am so glad it was because now it sparkles.

Plot:

While Donkey Kong and his pals celebrate his birthday, a cold chill blasts through Donkey Kong Island. Viking arctic invaders the Snowmads take control of the island, freezing the Kong's home. Donkey Kong and his friends must team up and defeat the northern intruders to unfreeze the island and continue their celebrations. 

Game Play:

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a game of reflexes, reaction time and pattern recognition. It continues the familiar side-scrolling gameplay from the previous games, making no significant changes to its core mechanics, but adds elements like new camera angles to spice up life. The game consists of 6 islands with multiple stages that you must battle through. You play primarily as Donkey Kong, who can team up with his buddies Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong, each who have their own set of special abilities, to complete levels. Diddy Kong has a jet pack that allows you to fly higher and further over large gaps. Dixie Kong can float by spinning her ponytail like a propeller. Cranky Kong uses his cane like a pogo stick, bouncing you over treacherous ground and higher than Donkey Kong can jump alone. 

Be ready to swim, slide, leap, ride and barrel-blast through the game. Ride on Rambi the Rhinoceros to get through troublesome areas and defeat difficult enemies with his horn. Collect the letters 'K' 'O' 'N' 'G' and puzzle pieces throughout the levels to unlock hidden levels and special items. Everything you would be used to from a classic Donkey Kong Country title. 

New Features:

New to the game is the 'Kong-Pow', a special attack that is powered up by collecting bananas. When you have a teammate on your back, unleash a blast that defeats all enemies on screen (doesn't work on bosses though). Each of Donkey Kong's pals have their own unique result from the Kong-Pow, turning the defeated enemies into useful items; Diddy Kong produces extra life balloons, Dixie Kong makes golden hearts and Cranky Kong creates banana coins that you can spend at Funky Kong's Fly 'n' Buy shop.


Retro Studio has added the ability to attack when swimming, something that comes in real handy during the game. While pillaging the deep, don't forget that you only have so much time underwater before you need to fill up your air gauge with a air bubble or swimming to the surface. 

Also, Donkey Kong can now pull items from the ground. Look for little handles sticking out of the ground and grab hold. You might get helpful items like banana coins, or an exploding watermelon, so think fast. 

The last noticeable update to the game is the camera angles. Retro Studios breaks up the traditional 2 dimensional side-to-side action by adding in dynamic perspective in certain areas of the game, giving an almost 3D appearance. There are moments in barrel-blast sections that remind me of Super Mario Galaxy and in the mine cart levels that feel like riding a roller coaster. This twist in viewing angle is unexpected and keeps you on your toes.


Multiplayer:

If you are in the mood to play with a friend, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has a great multiplayer. Player one controls Donkey Kong while the secondary player gets to choose from one of his pals. Once again, each character has their own projectile attack that replaces Donkey Kong's ground pound. Diddy has a peanut pop gun, Dixie has a bubblegum gun, and Cranky tosses his dentures at enemies. There is no collision detection between the two on screen characters, so no worrying that one player's moves will interfere with your own. Donkey Kong's partner can jump on DK's back like in single player mode to use the combined special power to jump higher, float farther and travel over tricky terrain. It's very easy to have a second player join your single player game. If you are in need of help to finish a level, grab a buddy and start collecting those bananas.


The Hot:

The graphics are stunning. Everything in the world is bright and colourful and the character designs are witty and creative. The processing power of the Wii U is really featured through the complexity of the animation on screen and the rendering of the fur texture on the Kongs. Retro did a great job on the transition fluidity between different platforming mechanics, such as jumping from land travel into swimming, or barrel-blasting to mine cart riding. Each level feels very full of content with lots of collectibles for secondary play throughs. 

The Not:

Some of the gameplay can get quite repeditive. In the search for puzzle pieces, there are banana collecting challenges that are reused over and over again. I would have liked to have seen some variation in them. Also, when I discovered that the collection of puzzle pieces unlocked game art, I pretty much game up on my pursuit of collecting them. Seemed like a lot of work for not much reward. 

The use of the gamepad is probably one of the most disappointing things about Donkey Kong Country. When using the television as your main screen, nothing at all appears on the GamePad. No items, no menu, no nothing. Unfortunate since this could have been used at least for an item list or map. You can transfer the main screen to your GamePad, but thats about as functional as it gets. 

Conclusion:

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is by far one of the best games for the Wii U. Though you will work hard to finish levels, the fun factor greatly outweighs the frustration level. It is a game you will want to play through over and over again, by yourself and with a friend. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be available to purchase February 22nd, 2014 at a video game store near you and for digital download on the Nintendo eShop.

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