Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review – The Death of 1000 Kongs
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review – The Death of 1000 Kongs
Some of my readers might be wondering why it took me so long to write a review for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The game was launched in late February and at the time of writing, it is the middle of March. In truth, the game took longer than expected to beat because of the difficulty. Writing a review based on an incomplete experience just for the sake of a deadline does not align with my principles. In my opinion, a review should be a fair critical analysis of an individual’s experience of the game – therefore one must give a game a fair go – forgetting any pre-perceptions. Now, that I have spent an extensive time with the game – I am comfortable in sharing my review to my readers. So what is the verdict? Is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a worthy addition to Wii U owners?
One thousand Kongs had to die in order for me to write this review….. And this is not some gross over exageration on my part. Without a doubt – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is going to be one of the most challenging games of the generation. The difficult foundation of DKCR is elevated to insane levels in tropical freeze – I found myself screaming profanities, walking around scratching my head to cool down and rage quitting very early into the game – I mean very early – so early that I am too ashamed to admit. Though difficult – I never once felt the game was cheap. Sure Tropical Freeze throws challenge after challenge, obstacle after obstacle, but it never verges on the ridiculous or pulls cheap tricks to annoy the player. When you die it is always your fault – either that jump was not timed well, DK’s position was wrong or you simply did not react quickly enough.
The challenge is achieved through the masterfully crafted levels. As expected from the Retro Studios- a large amount of creative flare went into the level designs. For example, one moment you could be holding for your dear life on moving poll decorated as animals from the Savannah, the next you could be on a thrilling mine cart ride on a chainsaw plagued Wood Mill, the next could be meticulously platforming against a ravenous bush fire and then finally you could be attempting to escape the grasp of a giant octopus in the darkest depth of the ocean. The amount of creativity and ideas that went into the level design and aesthetics is commendable – and most certainly Tropical Freeze demonstrates Retro’s growth as a quality developer.
One of the key difference between Tropical Freeze and its predecessor return – is that levels are generally much longer in duration. For the most part each course is broken up into three sections – which is clearly marked by the Pig Check Points. For less skilled players, the design choice is quite ingenious as it allows you to take on the challenges in bite size pieces. So if you happen to die so close to the finish line– you will no longer response at the start of the stage or the half way point. This relinquishes the frustration of redoing the same sections again and again, especially if you already have mastered a certain part. Essentially, it allows the player to refocus at the challenge at hand.
I found, the key to success is learning from your mistakes. I know it is the cliché thing to say, but it is the honest truth. Perhaps, the satisfaction of succeeding after so many failures is what makes Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze so rewarding and is the primary driving force for players to continue. For example, at the last section of Windmill hills – I could not for the life of me surpass the collapsing platforms section– although slightly frustrated – I kept to my guts – and tried over and over gain. Even after countless failed attempts – I knew that with a little determination and conditioning myself to memorize the level that the challenge was conquerable Guess what? I finished the level after being stuck for an entire. So many modern games fail to create a sense of achievements – which in part is due to the growth of cinematic’s in our industry – however – I believe this what makes Tropical Freeze such a gem – success after adversity is an incredible feeling – a feeling that I have missed dearly – and I thank Donkey Kong for creating a reward experience.
Success from learning patterns, certainly remains true with the boss battles. I find it very difficult to believe (more like refuse to believe) that an average player can defeat any boss in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at their first attempt. The bosses pose a mighty challenge themselves – the damned Seal will annoy with its swiftness on ice, the Owl will have you killed with lethal feathers, the Monkey’s will play tricks on you, the puffer fish will have you drown in the depths and the Polar bear will have you seeing banana’s with his large hammer. No doubt they are challenging, but not an impossible feat by any measure- simply one needs to learn the behavior and attack patterns of the mighty foes to conquer them.
At one point during your time with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze everything seems to click together – it is as if you reached gaming nirvana. The combination of expertly designed levels and the difficulty creates an experience that appeals to the many senses of the gamer – entrenching them so deeply into the game that putting down the GamePad becomes a difficult task.
Fortunately, Donkey Kong does not have to go at it alone. This time alongside his trusted pal Diddy Kong – Dixie and the ever so popular Cranky Kong joins in the fun. Besides the extra hearts that the DK’s friend provides – I found the abilities of the three pals an invaluable asset in finishing the game. Diddy Kong’s Jetpack allows DK to remain in the air for a little longer allowing you to land safely, on the other hand Dixie’s helicopter hair can give DK a little elevation while Cranky Kong can traverse devious terrain. Don’t under-appreciate your furry pals – at certain stages (especially during boss battles) – their assistance is essential to victory. Furthermore, you could also buy additional items from Funky’s shop that can give you additional help – but in general – I found little use for them.
As expected from a game of the “Country” series – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze boasts a sublime soundtrack that even rivals the incredible themes of the Super Mario Galaxy series. Composed by the accomplished David Wise – the entire soundtrack of Tropical Freeze is simply a marvel to behold – it has the variety of new compositions mixed with retro tracks with new spins. Most laudable is how the composition is able to capture the essence of the art design and theme of the level. For example, Grassland Grove (my favorite stage) captures the rawness of the African spirit. Don’t just take my word for it – listen to it yourself.
Unfortunately – I felt a little underwhelmed by the presentation of Tropical Freeze. Artistically, Tropical Freeze follows the same aesthetic design of its predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns. While Returns was visually brilliant on the Wii – I felt that Retro could have pushed their artists even further rather than being content with replicating the same visual style of DKCR. Don’t get the wrong idea – Tropical Freeze does look great, but I believe many won’t be able to shake the feeling that limits can be pushed more. At least. DKC: TF runs at a smooth, sexy 60 frames person second.
Furthermore, it is rather unfortunate that DKC: TF does not use the Wii U GamePad in meaningful ways. Besides, the standard off-screen play – the GamePad is non essential for the game. The second screen could have been used to offer a different camera perspective’s and lend itself well for unique level designs. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a superlative game – one that nails the fundamentals of game design through excellent crafted levels and worthy challenges. There are a few issues that hold it back from true greatness, but despite this – it really is hard to fault – to what is- a sublime game. In order to write this review, one thousand Kongs had to perish – however- in truth and honesty – the sacrifice was well worth it.