The Donkey Kong Country games have never been ones that have particularly grabbed me over the years, but then I think part of the problem with them – and with some of Nintendo’s other offerings like Yoshi’s Island and Kirby – is that Nintendo are trying their best not to replicate the mechanics of the 2D Mario games, and so the gameplay can suffer as a result.
However, with that said, I decided to try out the series’ newest offering, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
I wasn’t expecting anything amazing going in, but since my brother bought it, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Interestingly, this game only managed to get a 7/10 review over in Eurogamer and naturally, this raised the ire of the fanboys, who were aghast that anyone would dare mark down a Nintendo game of such heritage
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review
I’ll split this into what worked and what didn’t; the Good and the Bad.
It’s Tough: As gamers, I think we’re going a bit soft. It would seem that game developers often hold our hands through games so that if we’re not good enough to beat a level, they’ll make it so that we’re invincible and can’t possibly lose. This is both a good and a bad thing I suppose. On the one hand, if you pay out your hard-earned cash to buy a game and it’s too difficult for you to actually experience it to its fullest, that’s not a good thing. But on the other hand, making things too easy removes the challenge. Well DKC is challenging. As the game progresses, it gets tougher to beat and with each life you lose it becomes more frustrating. But then, when you actually complete it, you get a greater sense of achievement. If you need to, you can buy items with the coins you collect that make the game a bit easier, like extra hearts or balloons that save you from falling to your death, but these by no means make completing the level a foregone conclusion like the Invincible Mario does.
It Looks Nice: As you would expect from a Nintendo game, it’s got very nice graphics that you enjoy looking at. Also, those graphics port over well onto the Wii U Gamepad, if ever you find yourself unable to play the game through the TV (and that happened plenty of times for me incidentally).
Boss Battles With Depth: The boss battles at the end of each land are ones you have to approach tactically. They are all different and in their own way they are all tough.
Variety of Gameplay: Not every level is the same, which sounds obvious, but is quite unusual for a 2d platform game. Instead of controlling Donkey Kong through every level, sometimes you have to play as him in a “vehicle” like a Rhino, a mine cart or a flying barrel. This breaks the experience up a bit and keeps things fresh.
A Good Length: Not only are the levels quite long (the ones on New Super Mario Bros U only need one checkpoint, DKC levels have 4 or 5) but the game itself as a whole doesn’t drag on forever. If a game is too long – like the Windwaker Zelda game – it can start to frustrate you. This seemed a decent length.
Unreasonable Unlockables: In each level, you need to collect jigsaw pieces and the letters K O N G. Only if you get them all in one go (and this is where the game suffers compared to Mario, because in Mario you could at least go back) can you unlock the extra stages contained within each land. I have to be honest and say that while it’s good that the levels are long, I have no desire to go back and play through them all again to collect stuff, so I’m just going to have to be content with not being able to play a good quarter of those stages contained within in the game.
What’s The Point Of Cranky & Diddy Kong?: Each time you stumble across a barrel, you have a choice of having Cranky, Diddy or Dixie Kong join you. Each has his or her own special move. Cranky has a pogo stick that allows you to jump higher, Diddy has a jetpack that lets you hover for a bit, and Dixie has a combination of the two. With her, you can reach higher places and hang in the air for longer. So what happens is, every time you get the choice, you take Dixie. The other two are just pointless.
No Wii U Pad Innovations: For a Nintendo published game on a Nintendo produced console, it’s frustrating that the developers never bothered to make use of the Wii U Gamepad’s screen, other than just as a screen to watch the game on. Even a game like Rayman Legends – a third party title – heavily makes use of the Gamepad’s abilities. That felt weak.
To sum up then, while Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fun and challenging game that has some depth to it, I found the lack of Gamepad innovation disappointing, and the way to unlock the hidden stages so unwelcoming that I had to make peace with never playing them.
You could do worse than this game, but it’s fair to say that on the whole, there are better titles available for the Wii U. Like its predecessors, it just hasn’t won me over as much as some of Nintendo’s other offerings.
On an honest scale of 1-10, 7 is more than a fair score.