Donkey Kong is back again, collecting bananas, balloons, and punching seals in the face in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze! In this brand new adventure, you’ll find the titular ape trying to return to his home island after it has been taken over and flash-frozen by a group of artic Viking animals known as the Snowmads. Wait a minute… this isn’t new at all! Yep, it’s yet another Wii U port being barrel-cannon blasted on to your Switch. At least it’s promising a new Funky Mode, right?
So you want to know what I think of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze? Well, you could always read this review I wrote of the Wii U version four years ago, because they are basically identical aside from the aforementioned “New Funky Mode”, which is exactly what it sounds like, a new mode featuring the cutoff jorts-sporting surfer-dude gorilla Funky Kong as your main playable character. What does Funky Kong bring to the table (aside from 90s surfer dude attitude and a killer pair of shades)? Well, he basically removes all challenge from the game. He has a whopping total of five hit-point hearts from the start (DK maxes out at three and gets three more if he’s traveling with a buddy (at least when playing in Funky Mode, anyways), he can double jump, slow his fall by propellering his surfboard, has an endless underwater corkscrew attack (DK’s only propels forward a set distance) and has a snorkel that lets him breathe underwater. If that sounds overpowered to you, well, that’s because it is. This mode is surely ideal for newbies or kids because the original version of the game (which, thankfully, is still there) can definitely be fairly challenging, although I never found it to be unfairly so. Unfortunately, if you are a skilled player or someone who played this game back when it was on the Wii U, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze’s “New Funky Mode” brings nothing interesting to the table for you. He’s definitely over-powered for a guy who has previously claimed he disliked adventures. Maybe because he finds them lacking in challenge?
Aside from the inclusion of Funky Kong and his Funky Mode, you can expect the bare minimum of performance enhancements. The game looks great and runs at a full 1080p when docked, which is a marked improvement over the original which maxed out at 720p. The load times are also significantly better, which keeps the game moving with the kind of enjoyable flow you would expect from a game like this. That’s about it though, unless you get really excited about idle animations (Donkey Kong plays a Switch now!). Still no Engaurde the Swordfish (even though there’s plenty of water) or new levels or the kind of new additions you would expect when you are paying a full $60 for a game that originally retailed for $50. They really should have included the original Donkey Kong Country Returns in this package like how Bayonetta 2 came with a download code for the first game on the Switch, that would have definitely made it worth the price of admission.
It sounds like I’m being really down on this game, but only because it is asking full price (which is actually $10 more than what the Wii U version retailed for) while doing the bare minimum, port-wise. The game itself is still incredible– I’d go as far to say that Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is one of the most masterfully crafted platformer games ever created. I’d even say that it’s better than anything the New Super Mario Bros. series ever offered — and this is a lot coming from somebody who has been an enormous fan of Mario’s adventures since I was old enough to hold a controller. The art direction makes every level seem like a real and distinct place, unlike the cookie-cutter building block constructions that previous two dimensional Mario outings have. Tropical Freeze’s levels are constantly introducing new elements and mechanics, then combining and remixing them into wonderful challenges.
As a huge platform game fanatic, any excuse to play through this game was good enough for me. It’s just unfortunate the price of entry is pretty steep for a game that you might already have bought on the Wii U (although I suppose statistically that’s pretty unlikely). If you still have it, or played it already, be aware you are getting mostly the exact same experience for more money. If you didn’t own it before or skipped out on the Wii U generation, well, you’re in luck because this is one of the greatest 2D platform adventures ever created– with or without a New Funky Mode.
4 out of 5
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was reviewed using a retail copy of the game I had to buy with my own damn money. Full disclosure here at Nerd Overload.