Retro Studios, the company that revived the Donkey Kong country series has brought us yet another addition to the series exclusively for the Wii U.
Donkey Kong Country Returns was one of my favorite titles on the original Wii, bringing us very creative and unique level designs, along with a great challenges. This sequel includes everything that made the original stand out, and expands upon it even further, delivering the most chaotic adventure we’ve seen in the franchise!
The story begins with Donkey Kong and friends celebrating his birthday, when all of the sudden a group of vikings take over their home and launch them into a far away island, freezing and covering their home in snow in the process. Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong must journey back to their home island and defeat the leader of the vikings in order to re-claim their rightful home.
The platforming engine feels about the same as the original DKCR. You have the ability to pound the ground, allowing you to stun enemies or find secrets, roll into enemies and climb along grassy walls and ceilings. However, the ability to blow objects has been replace with a mechanic that lets you grab onto handles and reveal extra secrets. Diddy Kong returns as an assist that clings on Donkey Kong’s back (or as second player when playing co-op), allowing DK to hover temporarily with Diddy’s jetpack, let DK swim faster when underwater or perform a continuous rolling attack. In addition, Cranky Kong and Dixie Kong also help DK out with some useful new abilities. Dixie also allows DK swim faster underwater, as well as the ability to perform a double jump, while Cranky gives the ability to bounce on otherwise dangerous objects such as spikes without taking any damage by using his cane as a pogo stick. They also have a gauge that fills up as you continue defeating enemies. Once this meter is full, they can activate the “Kong Pow” attack (which I never remember to take advantage of). DK and whoever he’s partnered with will perform a team attack that defeats all enemies on screen and turns them into items. Items differ depending on who DK executes it with.
Unfortunately we still don’t have any returning or new animal friends aside from Rambi the Rhino. Though the mayhem of each stage and mind-blowing creative level design help to make up for the lack of animal friends. Not saying they still wouldn’t be a nice treat to use though.
It is a no brainer that the graphics are improved this time around. Donkey Kong now has actual fur and blows in the win with every movement you make, an it looks fantastic! The environments are also very bright, colorful and full of life! the silhouette stages return as well, adding to the freshness and creativity that each level brings. You can also tell that the creator’s paid a lot of attention to detail that most developers don’t bother to program into their games. For example, DK will automatically start a diving animation as he approaches a body of water, and he’ll start stretching his hands out before grabbing onto a vine. It’s just little things like this that shows how much they wanted to bring a quality, polished and un-rushed experienced.
The music was composed by David Wise, the same composer who scored the original Donkey Kong Country back on the SNES. He brings in some very nice feel-good music that matches well with the bright, colorful environment. This knowledge alone helps add that “authentic” feel to the game, as well as giving some nice catchy tunes to enjoy throughout the game.
The level designs literally have some of the most clever and creative ideas I’ve ever seen in a platformer. My mind was blown on some of the things I encountered! They’re so creative that I found myself moving onto the next stage just to see what wold happen next, even at times I wanted to take a break. The Mine cart stage in would 2 is a great example of how creative and chaotic the game can get. The difficulty gives a great (and sometimes frustrating) challenging experience that you’ll be determined to conquer. Thankfully the game gives you several lives that you’ll most definitely need to complete the game. It’s nice that they stayed true to the original games in terms of difficulty, instead of casualizing it like most other reboots. On the downside, this game has only 6 worlds, while the previous game had 8. However, it makes up for lower number of levels by making each stage and boss battle nearly twice as long.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a superb platformer with fantastic and extremely creative and challenging level design. They’ve taken their experiences developing the original reboot and perfected the formula that made the other game so great. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and look forward to collecting every Puzzle Piece and ‘KONG’ letter see what types of concept art and extra hidden stages I can find. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging side-scrolling platformer for the Wii U, look no further than Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze!