Not just another cold-hearted cash-in of a game
Platforming action at its finest, that’s what you’re going to get from Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze 3DS. Developed by Retro Studios (The same studio which brought us the Metroid Prime series) and Monster Games, this entry into the Donkey Kong Country series was set to be a fine title from the beginning. And what a game it is.
From the very beginning of the game, you are met with a vibrant opening movie that sets up the small story for the game. A group of ice-cold vikings have decided on a new land to settle — Donkey Kong’s island! It’s short, it’s simple. But it’s all we need. This particular scene is not being run in the game’s engine, but the same presentation is still kept in the actual game itself with lush graphics.
Everything stands out with large, colorful displays to lead you through each stage. Accompanying each stage is music from an amazing soundtrack composed by David Wise — the same man who composed the soundtracks full of classics for the original Donkey Kong Country games released on the Super Nintendo decades ago. Every track is clearly distinguishable, with memorable tunes that somehow always blend into their settings. Though there are six worlds to see and explore, each one manages to stand out, and the music is one of the large reasons.
But when I say the soundtrack is clearly distinguishable, well, that’s an understatement. I feel that the music deserves its own mention. Despite coming in at around sixty songs, there’s not a single one that I can say was disliked. Some may not be as good as others but they are all above many other games in quality. There is also a very nice sense of diversity to be had here — Upbeat, Relaxing, Multi-layered, Rock, Synth, all among other genres – which pulls the game along even further.
Exploring those worlds could not be a better experience. The iconic K O N G letters make a return from previous games to pick up, and the Puzzle Pieces from Donkey Kong Country Returns fill in for more secretive collectibles. The way these are spread out is just right to entice players into exploring the entirety of the world they have lovingly crafted.
Retro Studios truly nailed the physics for this game. They’re tight, responsive, and fair, whether you’re using the control stick or the D-Pad. Because of this, any difficulty found in this game is actually intentional — not a byproduct of poor controls. The menu in which you change the control scheme goes for a more clunky approach, however. This is a slight annoyance when it comes to water levels, where primary D-Pad users may want to switch to using the control stick for more directional freedom.
The stages in which you play through are all varied to keep things from getting stale. Some stages have you swinging from vine to vine, some running across an African Savannah, while others yet will see you swimming through the ocean. Each stage on display has great quality. While there are a few I can say weren’t quite fun (chiefly said underwater levels), they are in the minority. And not being on par with Donkey Kong Country levels isn’t a terribly bad thing, considering how high the bar is.
Along with stage variety, you also have various Kong members to liven up the adventure. Scattered along the levels are Partner Barrels that contain one of three Kongs to join you. Each of them have their own ability to keep things fresh: Diddy Kong brings his jetpack along, giving you a small bit of hover at the end of your jump; Dixie Kong allows for more aerial mobility with her hair-icopter; and Cranky Kong’s trusty cane gives you a pogo-like ability – one that even works on spikes! Each partner will change how you play in the moment depending on how you utilize these abilities.
Each level also has a Time Trial included via the game’s Time Attack mode. And when they say Time Trial they mean it – these challenges are no walk in the park. They are demanding. A single mistake can, and will, cost you. Thankfully the developers have you covered in the error department, as respawning after a death is a quick, hassle-free process. Completing a Trial with a gold medal time is extremely rewarding, as they truly demand your full attention.
The difficulty in the game is certainly higher than that of other platformer titles recently released, but is still very manageable. Enter Hard Mode. This difficulty level unlocked at the very end of the game isn’t afraid to challenge you at every corner. There are no checkpoints in site, resulting in replaying the stage if you fail… And you have one heart. Any mistake will be your last.
This is mostly a great system, but unfortunately it’s also a bit iffy. Some levels almost seem too easy, while others yet feel insurmountable. A big reason for this being that you have the ability to choose which specific Kong you take control of. A stage that mostly challenges you with spikes is going to be easier than one which challenges your reflexes, as you can just choose to use Cranky Kong in the former, annihilating any difficulty there may have been. This is a much appreciated addition either way, as it does give you something extra to do after beating the game.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze 3DS is fully deserving of your time. Between its finely-tuned gameplay, colorful visuals, and a brilliant soundtrack, there’s not much here to dislike. The replayability isn’t as high as it may be in other games, but this is often the case with platformer titles so it can’t really be attributed to this one in particular. If you’re looking for a new, quality platformer, look no further than Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze 3DS.