Every console generation or so there comes a 2D platformer which rivals some of the greatest classic games of the genre. It’s so rare to get an experience of this caliber, and even though I played this game to death on Wii U I still can’t put it down. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze on Switch takes one of the greatest platforming games of all time and makes it accessible to a wider audience with the addition of Funky Kong.
The Kongs have been unceremoniously booted from their home by the Viking-esque Snowmads. In this game you encounter enemies like voracious sharks, armor-clad walruses, and fire-breathing warthogs on your mission to return Kong Island back to it’s former tropical glory. The whole cast of DK, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky return from the Wii U version, but this time Funky Kong—the primate embodiment of easy mode—joins in on the platforming madness.
The Donkey Kong Country series is well-known for having some of the most difficult platforming games. Tropical Freeze continues this trend but adds the best controls that these games have ever had. The levels themselves are unforgiving, however the excessive number of bananas and 1-up balloons throughout make it difficult to drop below 50 lives. While the levels range in difficulty from hard to are Retro masochists there’s never any true danger of encountering the dreaded game over screen. This enables the slightly less platform-inclined to still enjoy an immensely challenging game. The over-saturation of extra lives brings up a question of what the point of having lives is if there’s never really any danger of losing them all, but that’s just a minor annoyance in an otherwise fantastic game. The only point at which these lives matter is in the world after the final boss which has some of the most challenging platforming I’ve experienced.
New to this iteration of Tropical Freeze is the stylish and graceful Funky Kong. The laid-back surfer dude finally takes to the swinging vines and mine carts and makes all other Kongs who came before him look like amateurs. Funky is essentially an amalgam of DK’s power and every special characteristic of the other playable characters in the game with his two most useful abilities being a double jump and an invulnerability to spikes. This Kong also has five hearts which is one less than DK with a buddy, but not needing to worry about losing half of your max health after three hits makes for much more carefree play. I’m usually not an advocate for an easy mode in otherwise difficult games, but Funky is just too much fun to play. It’s not like he’s an auto-win character either. If you’re not decent at platformers, then this game will still push you around.
I love the difficulty in Tropical Freeze, but the boss battles go on for too long. I typically love long levels and boss battles in platformers, but this game does not offer enough variation for my tastes. The levels in this game are some of the longest I’ve played in a platformer, but the changing scenery keeps me drawn in. The boss battle levels—with one exception—are just a single immobile screen. I appreciate the background filled with a lively raucous crowd of snowmads who cheer on their boss, but it’s hard to appreciate while you’re playing the game. The lack of variety in locale stales an experience that is otherwise enthralling.
Tropical Freeze is a fantastic single-player game that has a multiplayer mode in it. If you’re looking for something that you can play together with your friends I would have to suggest looking elsewhere. It’s disappointing that a game that I thoroughly enjoy has such a lackluster multiplayer mode. I play with people of differing levels of video game skill and we always end up at the same conclusion that this game is just not made for two people. The jumps are too difficult for two people and there is too much exploration to do in every level with not enough screen real-estate to support all of it. I’m not saying that a multiplayer mode doesn’t belong, but they could have taken a shot at adding another way of integrating a second player. It is intensely disappointing that I can’t share my enjoyment I have with this game unless someone wants to sit and watch me play this beautiful game.
This title has no right looking as good as it does considering the power of the original hardware for which it was created. Tropical Freeze is a perfect example of how attention to detail and dedication to a consistent art style makes a game come to life. There is so much to cover here that I could write a dissertation just about the quality of the art and animations in this game. The world in this game is the most lively I have ever experienced. Every platform has a reason for being there and every movement said platforms make are controlled by the motions of yourself or an enemy. There are even little scenes that play in the background of levels which add nothing to the gameplay, but those minute details just add to the feeling of life in that world.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for this review.