The Banana King of the Jungle teams up with Dixie, Diddy and Cranky Kong to defeat those devious Snowmads in Tropical Freeze, and it’s certainly a master class in platform gaming.
In his fifth Country Adventure, Donkey Kong is ready to brace the icy platforms and defeat the Snowmads in full-fledged HD on the Wii U. But you’d be a fool to believe you were in for an easy ride in Tropical Freeze – prepare to go bananas and pummel your chest in frustration at the game’s devilishly delectable platform levels.
Tropical Freeze introduces six new worlds for gamers to explore – Lost Mangroves, Autumn Heights, Bright Savannah, Sea Breeze Cove, Juicy Jungle, and Donkey Kong Island – and all are absolutely gorgeous in aesthetic appeal, with some levels verging on the delightfully berserk in gameplay design. But there’s a minute problem revealed from the outset which dilutes an otherwise first-class and beautiful game: the loading screens. Though loading length can be bothersome for many, it’s the lag that’s the crux of the matter here, with Donkey Kong halting mid-sprint or mid-roll while the Wii U tuts in a grumpy fashion. While the hold-ups would – in many games – go unnoticed, Tropical Freeze’s design is ultimately flawless, granting it an unfortunate but noticeable red flag.
Once past the loading lag, a wonderful dose of melodic music and opulent tones enriches the jungle experience. With David Wise’s prowess invigorating Retro’s latest DK adventure, it’s nothing short of mesmerising. From the swinging groove of Mangrove Cove, to the mellow and sultry serenity of the aquatic levels, and eventually to the icy undertones and synthesized pop within the game’s final stages, Wise creates a phantasmagoria of melodies designed to immerse the gamer into the heart of the jungle. The music wraps around the game’s atmosphere with such beauty, it only elevates Tropical Freeze’s gameplay to new heights, giving us a hankering to crack out those old DK bongos and tap to the beat.
As a platform game, Tropical Freeze is both a joy and a challenge to play. With four types of controller mode supported, as well as off-TV play on the GamePad, Retro has delivered to the masses. The controls are smooth and highly responsive, however, the underwater spin attack can be tricky to control at first, but adapting to its use is easy enough. However, it’s an undeniable shame that the GamePad isn’t utilised into core gameplay for a unique experience.
Various checkpoints serve as pit stops throughout levels to keep you from throwing in the towel, plus a number of coins, puzzle pieces, and the famous Kong letters are also hidden in each level. The unique Kong-POW meter, which can be filled by collecting bananas and accessed with Dixie, Diddy or Cranky, adds an extra level of depth and gives players the opportunity to turn enemies into various power-ups on screen.
Tropical Freeze’s HD visuals are glorious on the Wii U, but it’s the superb level design which reaches the definition of a master class in platform games. Design behind levels such as Trunk Twister, Grassland Groove, Cannon Canyon, High Tide Ride and Jelly Jamboree are visually fruitful and deliver exquisite camera angles at rapid speed. Not once is there a hiccup when shifting to a different angle, further emphasising the fluidity and atmospheric appeal of the game.
The Donkey Kong franchise is renowned for its challenging levels – and Tropical Freeze is no different. The underwater levels will strike your panicked soul to the core. Frantically reaching that last Kong letter before inching past a spiked ball, all while keeping an eye out for an air bubble is not for the faint-hearted. But also of notable merit for its stalwart challenge is World 5’s Fruity Factory – a death trap of unforgiving battering knives and sickeningly, high-powered spiked boards. But even that is outpaced by a number of boss levels such as the hoot-along showdown in World 2, where you’ll never look at feathers in quite the same way again.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a masterful addition to the franchise and, combined with the luxurious soundtrack, is a challenging experience worth going bananas over.