[DKC Tropical Freeze Logo]

[Now this is swimming underwater...in style!]

System: Nintendo Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
Designer: Retro Studios
Release Date: February 2014
Genre: Action/Platformer
Players: 1 or 2
Save Feature? Does the final boss have a good juke move? (Yes, he does!)

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is slightly better than its predecessor (DKC Returns) for one reason and one reason only: The Music! The magnificent return of David Wise to the role of lead composer was long overdue and the end result is the finest soundtrack since the glorious SNES days. In addition, the enhanced HD graphics are simply gorgeous while the gameplay is once again loads of fun! Granted, this game is somewhat lacking in its intangibles (see below for details) but there is still a lot to like about the latest DKC installment.

Overview: If you have played Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Nintendo Wii, then you have a very good idea of what to expect in the sequel. Everything from the game’s appearance to the controls and gameplay feels spot on with its predecessor. However, like with DKC 2 for the SNES, the second Wii/Wii U DKC game is probably slightly better than the already superb first game. The stage design/themes feel much more original this time around and having David Wise as the composer did wonders for the soundtrack. In addition to Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, you can now play as Dixie Kong (Diddy's girlfriend) and even Cranky Kong which was a nice nod to the classic SNES trilogy. Yes, for the first time in the series, Cranky Kong is actually a playable character in Tropical Freeze! Apparently, Cranky finally gave in and decided to play in a game with more than one screen and/or a two-frame walk rate! Lol! ;)

Once again, the latest DKC game involves you progressing through an eclectic selection of worlds/stages all while collecting bananas, K-O-N-G letters, hidden puzzle pieces (like in DKC Returns), and attempting to find all of the hidden bonus stages/secret exits as well! While conquering the stages and defeating all of the zany bosses is the main objective, DKC purists will tell you that finding all of the secrets and unlocking everything is what truly makes this game a satisfying experience. Being a perfectionist myself, I can certainly relate with that mindset. There is just something immensely fun about searching for (and finding!) some of the more well-hidden secrets in the game. It is “the game within the game” if you will.

There really isn’t a whole lot more to report regarding the nuts and bolts of the gameplay since Tropical Freeze plays so much like its predecessor. If you want additional details, I would encourage you to check out my Donkey Kong Country Returns review. Without any further ado, let’s dive right in and discuss certain aspect of this game!

[Scorch 'n' Torch!]

Graphics: Wowza! Let me just say that the Donkey Kong Country series was meant to be in HD because this game looks outstanding! The various colors, environments, and animated features really pop off of the television screen and look dazzling! I could seriously not stop smiling the first time that my brother Nate and I fired up DKC: Tropical Freeze and got to experience the sharpness and the clarity of the game's visuals. People can say what they want about the Wii U’s inferiority and how Nintendo is nowhere near the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 in terms of processing power and graphics capabilities. But you know something? I honestly could not care less. As long as Nintendo continues to produce games that look like this, I won't complain.

Music: While the graphics are indeed gorgeous and the gameplay is once again exceptional, the highlight for me personally has to be the incredible soundtrack found within the game. DKC: Tropical Freeze is a reunion of sorts because this is the first core DKC game since the original SNES trilogy to feature David Wise as the main composer. For those of you who may not be familiar with David Wise, he is a British video game composer who worked for Rare back during the late 80’s and early-to-mid 90’s. While his unique style resulted in some impressive accomplishments (Battletoads, Wizards & Warriors, and Snake Rattle ‘n Roll immediately come to mind), his crowning achievement has always been his Donkey Kong Country compositions. It is like a match made in heaven. David Wise just knows how to create the right style of music for the DKC series and in terms of atmosphere and beauty, his music transcends video games. I would argue that anyone with an appreciation for good music would love what Mr. Wise has to offer.

DKC: Tropical Freeze is one of David Wise's finest accomplishments too because the music in this game is remarkably diverse, atmospheric, and reaches the "jaw-dropping" scale. In addition to the quality of the music itself, I love how David Wise incorporates the perfect blend of fresh, original themes along with spectacular remixes of classic DKC tunes. Jungle Hijinx, Aquatic Ambiance, Lockjaw's Locker, Bramble Blast, and Fear Factory among others all make glorious reappearances in this game which was incredibly sentimental to my brother and I since we grew up playing the original SNES classics. And most of the new music is equally impressive as well! One of my favorite pieces in the game has to be the Scorch 'n' Torch theme which plays during a desert stage where the trees and vines are literally on fire! With its violin and flute sounds and catchy melody, I felt that I was attending a Yanni concert instead of playing a simple video game! It is that impressive and is just one of many amazing tracks found within the game. You have classic jungle beats, serene underwater melodies, and even some Lion King-esque ditties that play in some of the other desert stages. I remember all of those tunes that play in the "Fruit Factory" world being very pleasant as well. The music that plays over the course of the final few levels is adrenaline-pumping too and feels almost too epic for a game involving monkeys, penguins, and walruses but I digress.

Although it gets completely lost due to the grandeur of the music, the sound effects in DKC: Tropical Freeze are once again spot on. Everything sounds as it should and some of the monkey grunts and sounds, while goofy, at least give the game some personality. I do wish that the enemies and even some of the main bosses had been more memorable (some of the enemy grunts and kill sounds in the classic SNES games were so funny that you couldn't possibly forget them) but I suppose that you can't have everything.

Play Control: Aside from Dixie's helicopter spin and Cranky's DuckTales-esque cane technique, the controls feel almost identical to DKC Returns. Jumping, rolling/cartwheeling, and pounding objects in the foreground feels natural and a few nuances of DKC: Tropical Freeze (like swimming) are fairly easy to learn. Granted, the controls in the Wii/Wii U DKC games aren't quite as polished or responsive as the original SNES trilogy but the motion controls in particular are very good. I like how flicking the Wiimote incessantly allows you to roll along the terrain (if you have both Donkey and Diddy Kong together) unlocking secrets or bowling over enemies. Being able to grab onto vines and other objects with the B button adds a fun element to the game as well. On the flip side, for some odd reason, Nintendo decided to make the Kongs more floaty instead of retaining that crisp, fluid movement found in the classic DKC series. As a result, I find myself losing a lot more in the newer games versus the older ones. Overall, the controls are still very good. They just aren't quite up to classic DKC standards...that’s all.

[Never mess with a polar bear and his popsicle!]

Challenge: I can't help but laugh seeing the word "Challenge" because it makes me remember something my brother said while playing the game. After completing the first world or two, Nate stated that, while he enjoyed DKC: Tropical Freeze, he wished that it could be “more challenging.” Well, as if on cue, DKC: Tropical Freeze suddenly began to flex a little muscle and before you knew it, we were getting seriously owned by this beast of a video game! Where it really gets you is in the final few worlds as well as the secret temple stages. Yes, like the legendary temple stages of DKC Returns, these hidden areas in DKC: Tropical Freeze are extremely difficult to beat...particularly with a friend. This is chiefly the result of Donkey Kong being a real liability without having any special abilities from his friends when two players are involved. If you want a true hardcore challenge, go it alone with Donkey Kong...and may God have mercy on your soul...

Aside from challenging stages, snagging all of the hidden puzzle pieces, discovering all of the bonus stages, and hunting for those elusive secret exits is a daunting task indeed. Only a video game pro can even hope to accomplish this feat without help. I would say that overall, this game is Moderate-to-High in terms of its difficulty.

In addition to providing a satisfying challenge, the replay value is once again through the roof for the newest DKC game. Nate and I have played this game for several weeks and we still haven’t found everything! If you want a game with loads of content and one that will keep you entertained long after finishing the main story, this is as much as you could possibly expect from a simple 2-D platformer.

Storyline: Boy...if you had to pinpoint a weakness in the DKC series, it would have to be the (mostly) weak background stories that we have had to endure. The first two DKC games for the Super NES were perfectly fine but ever since, things have gone downhill...fast. And DKC: Tropical Freeze might very well be the worst of the bunch in this regard. The reason for this is the blatant lack of originality. There is simply nothing about the background story in this game that is new or intriguing. It is a lot like some of the more recent Mario games that gave next to no effort in terms of story.

Basically, neither the Kremlings or the Tikis are involved this time around. No, apparently penguins, polar bears, and one crazy, juke-loving walrus have their sights set on Donkey Kong Isle along with the banana hoard...or something along those lines (they simply freeze Donkey Kong Isle and boot out the Kongs so maybe they just want everything). Whatever the case, this is a real crying shame because honestly, I would have LOVED to have seen the Kremlings make a return appearance. They were always the best villains back during the SNES era and these other attempts in recent years just haven't clicked at all in my opinion. Granted, a couple of bosses late in the game (the polar bear and walrus ones) were at least somewhat memorable but nothing can touch the Kremlins! To sum it up, the story in DKC: Tropical Freeze just reeks of "Meh."

[Enter Cranky Kong!]

Funfactor: Despite a few flaws here and there, make no mistake about it...DKC: Tropical Freeze is still a fantastic video game. The visuals and sounds are world class while the stage design and overall gameplay is eclectic and loads of fun respectively. It is a game on the cusp of being an all-time classic without quite reaching the mark due to a few minor blemishes (see Negatives section). This game could have honestly been the greatest game in the series and one of the finest games ever made if only it had the heart of DKC 2. Still, I am more than happy to accept another great DKC game into this ever-growing series. It is an absolute must-have/must-play game so do not hesitate for a second on snagging a copy of DKC: Tropical Freeze!

Negatives: Like with DKC Returns, where this game struggles a bit is in the intangibles. DKC: Tropical Freeze is filled to the brim with superb graphics, legendary music, and engrossing gameplay. However, as far as the intangibles go, I feel that Nintendo could have done more.

Allow me to explain. In the original DKC trilogy, you could easily tell that Rare (the developer) put their heart and soul into the totality of the game(s). Cool/hip heroes, memorable enemies, tremendous variety in terms of the game's bonus stages, and just that extra swagger/pizzazz that you can't quite quantify but is something that you recognize when you see it.

Well, while the newest DKC game is indeed a great game in many ways, I just get the feeling that Nintendo left some potential on the table. For one thing, the bonus stages in this game, from a variety standpoint, absolutely suck. There is simply no way around it. They are almost identical to each other with hardly any variety whatsoever. And while collecting bananas is certainly enjoyable, so is having a myriad of tasks such as defeating enemies, searching an area, or something crazy like riding a roller coaster backwards to obtain an elusive Kremcoin (DKC2 actually does this). Nintendo could have certainly made the bonus stages more appealing and fun...that's all I am saying.

Also, what gives with the villains in this game? While the Kremlings brought a lot of personality to the series, most of the enemies in Tropical Freeze just look lame and don't really add anything to the game in terms of atmosphere and/or intrigue. I shouldn’t find myself almost feeling sorry for a sad-looking penguin walking across the screen like his puppy just died. It is pathetic! And even the Kongs seem almost too goofy and silly at times. Back in the SNES era, the Kongs were cool/hip/groovy! Funky Kong is the perfect example too. He was so chill and as cool as a cucumber back then but now? In Tropical Freeze, he literally sounds like a silly, half-retarded monkey who yells "Goldfishles" (whatever the heck that means) half the time. What in the heck?!

I honestly hate having to rant here because deep down, I really do love this game! However, these are the reasons why DKC: Tropical Freeze is probably not the best game in the DKC series and isn't quite able to attain true greatness. It needed something more in regards to its intangibles. Most gamers will probably not notice this and that is perfectly fine. As a lifelong fan of the series, however, I noticed.

Lastly, the controls aren't quite spot on and I have already expressed my opinion of the background story. It is a minor thing with the controls because they do so many things right. The floaty nature of Donkey Kong and his pathetic (and I do mean pathetic!) jumping ability brings the game down slightly, however. Why the controls couldn’t feel as crisp as the SNES games is beyond me. And in regards to the story, by no means do I expect an incredibly intricate, epic plot involving monkeys. But geez...you would think that even Nintendo could do better than this!

[It feels fruity around here!]

Ratings: Graphics: 5.0* Music: 5.0* Play Control: 4.1 Challenge: 4.8 Storyline: 3.0 Funfactor: 4.9 Overall Score: 26.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!

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Last Updated: June 5, 2015
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