Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

Despite the failure of success from Nintendo’s Wii U console, it did manage to spawn a handful of unique and creative titles that never achieved the recognition they deserved through a limited a fan base. However, with the release of the Switch, these games are being given a second lease of life, as well as a larger audience, to finally fulfil their full potential and amaze us lucky gamers. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest of such titles to be given the switch makeover and prove their worth, once and for all.

Developed by Retro Studios and with publishing from Nintendo, Donkey Kong Country is a platforming side-scroller, but this banana-loving gorilla has a lot more hidden depth as you begin to peel your way through its elements of gameplay. Although originally released four years ago, this is a game that still retains its freshness with its new port; in fact, I would even go as far to say that this switch version almost feels like a whole, completely new title.

In case you missed the original release on the Wii U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze revolves around the Kong family, where they are celebrating the iconic hero’s birthday in their tropical home. Just as he is about to blow out the candle on his cake, a solitary snowflake falls from the sky, extinguishing the candle’s flame.  After a commotion outside, the Kong’s leave their hut to witness the ice dragon, a huge beast and member of the snowmads, who blasts the family with such intense winds, that he sends them to the far-off islands of the Lost Mangroves. From here, you must find a way back to your tropical homeland and rescue it from the icy wastelands that the Snowmads have created since taking over the island.

Set across six different islands, you and your friends, Diddy, Dixie and Cranky, along with a new addition exclusively for the Switch, Funky, set off on a journey to reclaim your home. Although primarily a 2D side-scrolling platformer, Donkey Kong Country possesses a staggering array of features in terms of gameplay, level designs and extras that makes it stand out from the crowd. Varying camera angles change the perspective seamlessly from 2D to 2.5D and 3D, level design is fiendishly designed to house many secrets, as well as provide a stiff challenge and team-play brings a variety of elements as Kong utilises the skills that his friends bring when they join him. It all adds up to bring a versatility to the game’s genre, something that has been greatly enhanced with this new version of the game upon the Nintendo Switch.

Although the game has had only a minor upgrade in its cosmetics, now running at 1080p instead of the Wii U’s 720 and still running at 60fps, it simply looks stunning on the Switch, whether you are playing docked or in handheld mode. There’s now a sharpness which brings everything to life more than it ever has done before. The strands of Kong’s fur, the clearer interpretation of the levels’ designs and a richness in colour that simply blooms. The control scheme has been also been enhanced, providing a tightness of movement that fully complements the stability of the consistency of the game’s high-definition frame-rates. It all works together to provide the definitive experience of Donkey Kong Country in terms of control and aesthetics.

However, the biggest inclusion to the Switch version, has to be the new Funky Mode. It’s no secret that this is a tough game to beat, although its difficulty lies in your own ability and not through level design. When you fail to complete a level, you know it is down to your own mistakes and not the fault of the games. With this new inclusion to the game though, it creates an accessibility that will appeal to players of all abilities. Using the same mechanics as the games original mode, Funky Kong brings a whole new level of coolness to the proceedings. Equipped with his surf board, you can continuously roll, descend slowly using your board as a rotor blade and surf the spikes that laden the jungle floor. You also gain extra hearts, up to five from DK’s two, which allows you to traverse the terrain with a lot greater ease than before.

This means you now have a choice in how you approach the game. The original’s still intact for the more experienced, or hardcore gamer, but with the inclusion of Funky Kong, the game has opened itself up to wider audience with less-forgiving mechanics in its gameplay. It still isn’t a walk in the park though, as this new mode contains the exact same elements of the original and Funky isn’t totally over-powered in his abilities, it just makes the challenge a bit more manageable for less equipped players; although, I must admit, I also had a great deal of fun in this mode too as Funky is way too cool to ignore. However you decide to play though, each mode is locked to that game style when you select it. This means if you start in Funky mode, you have to continue along its path; however, with multiple save files you can easily play along both the original and funky modes at the same time.

Fans of the original will find everything that they loved before in this new version of the game. It still contains the same mechanics, secrets, level designs and multiplayer mayhem; even the infamous K levels that are unlocked by finding all of the KONG letters in a given world. However, everything just looks and feels more refined now; especially in its aesthetics that allows a clearer field of view during the times the levels pan out a bit. Newcomers will undoubtedly wonder why they had never played this game before, particularly with its variations of game styles and presentations; from your normal platforming mechanics to the fast-paced roller-coasters and rhino-smashing sections; and that’s all I’m giving away with what you can find within the game.

Overall, this updated version of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze feels perfectly at home on the Nintendo Switch; in fact, I would even go as far as saying that it sits better on the switch than it ever did on the Wii U, especially with all of its enhancements and extra features. It now feels like a more refined and pleasurable experience. Everything has a more fluid animation, which feels more natural and the tightness of the controls have been tweaked to perfection, which on a platformer on this level is an absolute god-send. Donkey Kong has come a long way since his days of throwing barrels at an advancing Mario, and has since built a solid fan-base with every iteration of his being. If you’re a fan of our big, banana eating gorilla, or even if you’re a fan of the platforming genre, then this is a game that needs to be on your switch; it’s a no-brainer really. If you’re a veteran of Tropical Freeze, then there’s enough refinement here to warrant a return to its cool ways and if you’re a newcomer, then what are you waiting for? It’s time to grab your surfboard and funky on down to your local game store, you won’t regret it!

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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