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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

A little late to the going ape party, but still...
When I picked this game up as my final Platinum Reward for Club Nintendo, it was because it was the highest valued game on the market and the only title from the Platinum rewards that I did not already own. I had briefly played Donkey Kong Country Returns in college with a friend, but the gameplay and controls never seemed to click with me and I ended up feeling more frustrated than anything.

So imagine my surprise when a friend commented on the disc for Returns as I was cycling through what we could play cooperatively. I did not have fond memories of Returns, but I thought back to my download and booted up Tropical Freeze.

Now, I've completed the game after three weekends of intense play. What did I think?


-Unique platforming mechanics that differentiate it from other titles

-(Mostly) satisfying difficulty

-Fantastic soundtrack and aesthetics


-Water controls are a little less enjoyable than they need to be

-Boss patterns are exhausting

-Level selection animations are a bit long


Tropical Freeze is truly a stellar game. While i have gone back to the title after playing its co-op, I can comment fully on its array of features now that I have played through it with a friend, which I personally feel is the best way to do so. It is not an easy game, and its unforgiving lives system, coupled with the complex level design, makes Tropical Freeze one of the most satisfyingly difficult platformers I have ever played. With the Wii remote motion tomfoolery done away with, the game feels more comfortable than ever and plays very precisely- with the exception of the underwater mechanics.

While they are actually better played with a joystick than a D-pad, Retro's solution to underwater control is still plagued by slippery design that the rest of the game features, but can be minimized with precise inputs. Momentum feels too harsh with these controls, especially with the directional influence at play and odd animations the Kongs use to right themselves when they are upside down. And then, of course, there is the implementation of a air gauge, which is further punishing given how the levels in Tropical Freeze are best tackled in a continuous, speedy fashion. It might seem minor, but when the midway point of the game heavily features these mechanics in a number of difficult segments, it wears out its welcome very fast. Luckily, the latter half of the game is light on these challenges, focusing instead on tight platforming and brutally inventive level design.

The bosses, while clever and unique, have a number of attack patterns, changing as you progress through their "number of hits". While this is a great way to keep these battles feeling like a true test of skill, it's also a rough spot because of how little they are vulnerable throughout their increasingly complex attack patterns. The final boss is suitably harsh, and after playing through the battle a number of times, I can safely say that if I were to challenge him again, I'd be pretty good at dodging his patterns. It still took a whole gaming session to complete.

The interesting thing about co-op in Tropical Freeze is that Donkey Kong loses the secondary benefits he has in single player, now being gifted to the second player. In some ways, this is a very good way to make the game inviting for someone who is not used to the difficulty, as all three of the partner characters have abilities that make them easier to play with, and Donkey Kong himself is burdened with the most basic of abilities, making challenges that much more satisfying to complete with him.

What more is there to say? Tropical Freeze is fun. The levels are never boring, rarely featuring the same mechanic , and go through their own phases of difficulty as they introduce a concept, expand upon it, and then go nuts in the final act. While it is infuriating at times, especially with the lives system being a bit more punishing than even single player, it also highlights what is so satisfying about Tropical Freeze in general- it is a different experience in both modes and is all the better for it.

Final Verdict: If you're looking for a game that doesn't pull its punches, the difficulty of Tropical Freeze is just right- challenging mechanics that snowball into insane conclusions. While it's not perfect, it is very close to it, and both single player and cooperative play are wholly unique affairs that can be enjoyed in their own ways. For a challenge to enjoy or play when chilling with friends, look no further.

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