Sunday, June 21, 2015

Game Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

2D Platformer; Wii U; Nintendo/Retro Studios; 2014
Sorry once again for leaving you with nothing last week. I got lazy last Sunday and then came E3 and I was thinking of writing my thoughts about it, but then Nintendo didn't announce the New Nintendo 3DS and all of my interest in E3 just vanished, consuming my soul with an empty void of disappointment that Nintendo of America STILL doesn't want to give it's consumers one of the most requested products of the year. Seriously, it's been over 4 months since the New 3DS XL was released, and Nintendo of America STILL hasn't address the fact that there is a smaller version of the system available literally EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD! And Nintendo of America STILL hasn't responded to any of my e-mails about for over a month now. Anyway, I need to stop talking about this before I get way too pissed to for the review. I'm talking about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze today. A game I got off of Club Nintendo for free.

Wait, how old is DK now?
The good old Donkey Kong was having a birthday party with his family: Cranky Kong, Diddy Kong, as well Dixie Kong. However, before he could blow out his candle, a fleet of ships invade Donkey Kong Island. This fleet belongs to the Snow Mads, a group of arctic invaders who not only kicked DK and his family out of their home, but also turned DK Island into their own winter wonderland. Now, DK must fight face off against the Snow Mads as he travels across various islands as he makes his way back home and send these cold conquerors packing.

The story is well the story to a Nintendo Platformer, barely existent and only serves to establish the villain and vaguely why you are fight him. I mean, did you expect an epic tale of intense drama and mind bending plot twists in a game about a giant ape who wears a tie?

Hi Five!
To those who have played Donkey Kong Country Returns all of the same mechanics are here in Tropical Freeze as well. As DK you run, jump, roll, and ground pound your way though several stages collecting puzzle pieces for unlockable concept art and KONG letters for access to each island's super hard "Kong Temple" which tests you to the limit of your platforming abilities. Every once in a while you ride on DK's best friend Rambi the Rhino and destroy blocks, spikes, and generally charge your way through stages. New to Tropical Freeze is the ability to have different buddies helping DK. While actually playing as these monkey helpers is still locked to the 2 Player mode, DK can have Diddy, Dixie, or even Cranky Kong helping him at any given time, each with their own abilities. With Diddy, DK can hover for a short period of time thanks to the little Kong's jetpack, Dixie can swing her hair around for a little extra height, and Old man Cranky can use his cane as a pogo-stick hoping on spikes. In addition you have the powerful "Kong Pow" attack which requires one of your friends but can clear the screen of enemies replacing them with Red Balloons (1-UPs) with Diddy, Gold Hearts with Dixie, or Banana Coins with Cranky. The Kongs can also now go underwater where their abilities change against, Diddy can give a short burst of speed, Dixie a smaller but continuous speed boost, while Cranky can just swipe his cane at enemies. And finally, the "Blow" mechanic from the first game has been replaced by the "Pull" mechanic, allowing DK to pull on vines and plugs and whatever else he finds to unlock areas of the stage or find hidden goodies.

Don't worry, I'm on a mine cart, I'm sure we will be okay.
 Unfortunately, not all is well on DK Island, as many of the issues that were present in Returns are also present in Tropical Freeze. We still ONLY have Rambi the Rhino as an Animal Friend with the only other companion being Squawks as an item that helps you find puzzle pieces, ground pound and roll are still mapped to the same button (or motion if your using a Wiimote), and Rocket Barrel and Mine Cart stages are still annoying as hell. And while it's nice to see underwater stages return, along with a remix of Aquatic Ambiance, but the underwater controls make it even more frustrating to play though these stages. And the shifting perspectives during Barrel sequences as well as Rocket Barrel and Mine Cart stages don't do that much to change the gameplay. And finally, Tropical Freeze doesn't feel as original as Returns did. I mean, there are some really amazing and interesting stages, but nothing like riding a mine cart on the outside of an egg only to drop in and having to jump over the holes being made on the outside of the egg as it is rolling along like in Returns.

In the end, is Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze a fun game: YES. It is still amazingly well polished and put together game with great effects and a lot of creativity put into it. Unfortunately, it does come across as TOO much like Donkey Kong Country Returns without having enough new and original stuff in it to make it feel unique. It's less like a sequel and more like a 1.5 enhancement. I still had a blast playing it and Retro Studios still are putting out quality produces, but I fear that they might become too repetitive if they continue with the Donkey Kong franchise like this. However, the game is still Highly Recommended.

Until Next Time.

-CRES, and of course being a Retro Studios game means GORGEOUS artwork.

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