Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review
Oh Nintendo. What are we going to do with you?
To use the age-old cliché, Nintendo really is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock being making good quality games and the hard place being the fact that no-one cares.
It’s hard to be surprised, though.
In an age of gaming where fans are increasingly cynical about Nintendo’s endless Mardi Gras of franchises as it parades Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda out in expected fashion, gamers have become immune to Nintendo’s previously engrossing appeal.
And Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the perfect example of that.
Donkey Kong County: Tropical Freeze – The Good
See, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is far from a bad game. Veterans of the series will know what to expect here, but to be explicit you play a monkey as you move left to right collecting balloons, bounding platforms and bashing baddies.
It’s all fairly harmless, in that regard.
It maintains the feel of a Donkey Kong game, too: the varied environments and the hidden bonus stages, the vehicle sections and the barrel cannons and – less so – the inclusion of rideable animals.
With even more collectables than ever there’s plenty to keep an eye out for in each level too, from hidden puzzle pieces, feats of dexterity when collecting the four letters K, O, N and G or the stacks of bananas – which will give you an extra life with every 100.
There are a few new features here; namely Donkey Kong’s ability to pull stuff out of the ground – yes, like Super Mario Bros 2 – and the inclusion of Cranky Kong, playable for the first time ever (ohmygosh!).
That’s about it for ‘innovation’ when it comes to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and even Cranky Kong is a fairly blatant rip-off – at least mechanically – of Scrooge McDuck from the DuckTales game.
There isn’t much to get enthused about here, sadly. Yes, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a well-executed 2D platformer with all the quality you’d expect from a Nintendo release, but it does feel like more of the same.
And just like we criticise Call Of Duty for rehashing itself on a yearly basis, Nintendo and Donkey Kong needs to be held up to the same light – the only difference is that this has been knocking around for even longer than COD.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – The Bad
It’s a warming of the Nostalgia Gland, as Nintendo games so often are, but it doesn’t feel like there’s much reason for Donkey Kong Country to make a return – other than the fact that Nintendo hasn’t done a proper new Donkey Kong Country game for a while.
It’s not even that the game is bad. Those of you who are interested in Donkey Kong will find themselves enjoying the experience.
But it doesn’t feel new, and mostly because it isn’t new. Aside from the new HD graphics and vaguely entertaining cut-scenes, there’s little in the core gameplay to really distinguish this from the SNES equivalent.
Except, of course, its difficulty. Or lack of anyway.
It’s true that the stages themselves do scale in difficulty pretty well and by the end of the game you’ll have to go through a handful of lives before a section – often a vehicle-riding bit – finally succumbs to your inevitable success.
And yes it’s true the inclusion of a Hard Mode will be appealing to those who remember struggling to maintain more than 10 Red Balloons.
But Red Balloons – or your lives – are so frequent it hardly feels like you’re being challenged. Perhaps this is intentional for Nintendo to ease players in, but there are so many means of gathering lives the stages can pass you buy without sweating over them too much.
Additionally Funky Kong’s store is now bolstered with even more items to make your life easier, too, and again feels extremely arbitrary when the items themselves are anything but necessary to succeed.
Which thereby makes the entire Gold Coin system all but pointless.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review
There isn’t really much to say that’s positive about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and that’s not because it isn’t – as a whole – a fun experience to play through. It absolutely is.
It’s just the kind of game that comes and goes with little more than a shrug from all but the most die-hard of Nintendo fans, such is the ambivalence it is capable of.
Yes it’s good, but not nearly as fresh as Super Mario 3D World felt. This is Nintendo’s problem; it seems it has reached a tipping point of sorts were we expect – no, need – to see something new from the company.
Pikmin 3 was allowed a pass because it was, at least, a series that hadn’t been bled dry. The likes of Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda need to either do something completely new or be an exceptional example of what each respective franchise can do.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze manages neither of those things, yet somehow remains a thoroughly enjoyable platformer.
It’s perhaps best to look at it this way: if you have a Wii U and get Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze you will get a good game. What you won’t
Nintendo’s struggles with the Wii U aren’t going to dissipate if it continues to clutch at the past like this. Strategies that may have worked years earlier aren’t working here, and Nintendo needs to learn this sooner rather than later.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a prime example of modern Nintendo, and that’s admittedly a very loose use of the word ‘modern’.
Version Tested: Wii U