Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review
Donkey Kong Country is one of Nintendo’s longest running franchises, next to Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, and for good reason. The side scrolling, monkey action has been a staple in homes of Nintendo fans for generations, and while the releases are not as frequent as Mario and Zelda, the quality of the games they do release is fantastic. While we await a new Donkey Kong Country experience on Nintendo Switch – which we believe is imminent – returning to the under appreciated Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze from the Wii U is a great way for Nintendo to kick off the franchises Switch life! Is it worth playing again, or for the first time? Let’s take a look.
This review of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will treat the experience as a new game when assigning a score. For those who have played in the past and wonder if purchasing again is a good idea, please reference our section below on that!
From our Wii U Review
Off the top, it’s important to note that content wise, everything from the original release on Wii U is present in this Switch port, and therefore, much of what we wrote in our original review is still valid. What wasn’t glossed over was the difficulty of this game as a whole, which resulted in numerous thrown controllers as we made our way across 7 worlds. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze isn’t a game anyone should take lightly, as it didn’t – notice the past tense – cater well to new platform gaming fans. Even longtime fans had problems getting through the entire experience . That has changed now with the new Funky Mode, which we will touch on in a bit.
Gameplay wise, Tropical Freeze allowed players to experiment in levels with various kongs, many new abilities, and much more, making this experience a bit deeper than those of the past. Here is just a bit of what we had to say about the gameplay overall:
Unlike in Donkey Kong Country Returns, Tropical Freeze allows you to choose one of three monkeys to accompany you on your quest. Sometimes, choosing between Dixie’s helicopter spin, which helps reach new heights, or Diddy’s jet-pack, which allows you to clear small gaps, or Cranky’s cane, which allows you to bounce over otherwise impassible traps, doesn’t matter. Any Kong will help you complete the level and snag all the collectibles. At other times, however, who you choose to take along for the level will determine whether or not you will be able to collect all the puzzle pieces or the K-O-N-G letters scattered throughout a stage. The ability and the need to choose at times gives players a challenge and, often, a reason to replay past levels, adding to the already lengthy, fifteen plus hour campaign.
New Funky Mode
When writing our 8.5/10 review in 2014, our writer noted two major setbacks to the experience, most notably how difficult the game was to complete, even for veteran Donkey Kong platforming fans. Nintendo has addressed that major critique with this port, adding Funky Mode to the mix, allowing players to traverse levels much easier with Funky Kong. Not only does Funky Kong have 5 hearts – as opposed to the regular 2 hearts – but he also has a double jump ability, hover ability, and can avoid most ground traps by standing on his surfboard, similar to Cranky’s cane!
This change alone makes Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a much more accessible experience! There is still some challenge involved, as there are still moments where accurate jumping will be required, but as a whole, it will allow younger children – I’m thinking about my eight year old here – to finish the game without A) needing the help of an older player, or B) giving up in frustration. Nintendo is all about accessibility, and that is proven here.
On top of all these abilities, Funky still has more to offer players. Unlimited rolling – valuable for taking out a string of enemies that would otherwise require precise jumps and movements – and the ability to swim without needing oxygen, are just two more ways Nintendo has opened up Tropical Freeze to a larger audience. Don’t worry though, for those who want the most original experience possible, you can still play the game as it was originally developed, with Donkey Kong, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky, and the original 2 heart max health system! Whichever way you want to play, Nintendo has you covered.
The new online time attack scores are also welcomed here, and previous records for speed runs in Tropical Freeze will now be obliterated thanks to the new Funky Mode. It is exciting to see how fast people will power through this game!
1080P Upgrade, Load Times Improved, and 60 FPS
While only outputting at 720p on the Nintendo Wii U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has been bumped up to 1080p, although as the Digital Foundry video on the subject explains, it won’t be easy to notice the difference unless you overlay the Wii U version and Switch version, and quickly toggle back and forth. It is 2018, so the increased pixel count is ultimately a necessity, albeit one you might not initially appreciate.
The biggest new change to the Nintendo Switch version, is how quickly you will load into the game from the main screen, and into levels from the world over. Again, using the Digital Foundry video as a reference, you can see upwards of 20-40 seconds faster loading times on the Nintendo Switch, as opposed to the Wii U. The faster the game loads, the better the experience for the end user, so while 20 seconds might not seem like a lot, in reality, its 20 more seconds you are pulled out of the experience you are enjoying.
Frame rate appears to remain constant at 60 frames per second, and while Digital Foundry couldn’t find an instance of frame rate drops, friend of the site Abdallah did note to me that he noticed a few irregularities when playing through mine cart levels, specifically those in World 2. Upon revisiting those levels myself, I also noticed the smallest of hiccups in the gameplay. Not enough to be a problem, but none-the-less something that should be pointed out.
Tale of Ports – Should You Repurchase
At GamesReviews, we have generally been in favour of bringing Wii U games over to Nintendo Switch, if not only because so few people experienced the Wii U, and although it was a commercial flop, the titles available were still high quality Nintendo products. For those who have already played Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, however, there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to buy again. Unlike Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which brought over all the DLC from the Wii U releases – Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze doesn’t bring over much at all. The new Funky Mode is nice, but not a reason to play again. Unless you desperately want to play through Tropical Freeze again, it would be hard for us to recommend spending full retail price on this port; rather, save those dollars for future Nintendo Switch releases!
There is a lot to love about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It will now be played by more people – and rightfully so – and also has been altered enough to appeal to a wider audience. Coupled with lightning quick load times, 1080p visuals, and a constant frame rate, and Nintendo fans have yet another major hit on their hands. If you enjoy some challenge, and have been a fan of the Donkey Kong Country games of the past, there is no reason to pass on Tropical Freeze. It is one of Donkey Kong’s better outings, which is saying a lot since this is a successful, storied franchise!