Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – Video Review (Wii U)

, , 100 Comments


You know, for as excited as DK is to dig into
his banana cake here, it still pales in comparison to how excited I was to play DKC: Tropical
Freeze. And with that excitement came some pretty
some pretty high expectations. After all, I’m a huge fan of the original series on the
Super Nintendo, and I found DKCR to be one of the Wii’s best games. So yeah, my expectations
for the sequel were pretty high. And yet, Tropical Freeze completely shattered them. Now part of what made Donkey Kong Country
Returns such a memorable experience was how dynamic the levels were–which is a tradition
Tropical Freeze not only continues, but somehow improves upon. The levels in this game are
so full of life and personality that they’re essentially characters in and of themselves.
Take Grassland Grove, for example, which involves navigating an entire environment that dances
to the music, such as the trees early into the level, and even animal puppets that you’ll
catch a ride later on. Then there’s Sawmill Thrill–a minecart level–where
a giant sawblade literally carves the path from wood in front of your very eyes. Wait,
did I say a minecart level? Because it turns into a toboggan one about halfway through.
These levels are changing. All. The. Time. The amount of stuff happening in every level
is simply unparalleled for any platforming game that I’ve played. Take World 3’s Bramble
Scramble, where the plant-based platforms actually grow into place while you’re traversing
the level. Even the levels that are literally set in stone, really aren’t. It constantly changing levels add a sense
of hyper-realism to the game that, frankly, makes the levels of most other platformers
seem dull by comparison. There’s a sense of real energy here–a sense that anything can–and
often will–happen. And adding to this all is the introduction
of a highly dynamic camera during some parts of the game, such as during a few barrel-blasting
sequences, or in some minecart levels. It provides both a fresh–and much more cinematic
perspective–and even opens up some unique gameplay opportunities, like being able to
hop between tracks. Although I do have two complaints. For one, It can be a bit little
tricky to gauge depth in these scene, that might result in some questionable deaths.
And 2) The dynamic camera pops up a lot less frequently than I expected and I would have
loved to have seen more. But really, that’s kind of of like complaining that there’s too
few sprinkles on an otherwise delicious cake When you get down to it, nearly every single
level in Tropical Freeze feels completely distinct from the others. So much so, that
I could describe just about any level in the game using just a few words, and anyone who’s
played the game would have no trouble figuring out which level I was talking about. Unfortunately, it’s this very amount of diversity
that makes my biggest complaint about the game all the more painful. The dreaded bonus
rooms from Donkey Kong Country Returns are back. Okay, so maybe they’re not *that* bad,
but the problem is that they all end up feeling basically the same, involving collecting bananas
before time runs out in order to earn a puzzle piece. And since you might encounter at least
1 or 2 in every level, they can get tiresome very quickly. Not only are they repetitive–especially if
you played the previous game–but they kind of ruin the flow of these otherwise fantastically
crafted levels. Now let me stress that it’s not really a huge problem–particularly as
they are optional, and only need to be explored if you’re trying to 100% the game. But it
is a blight on an otherwise near-perfect experience, and I would actually encourage you to skip
them on your first play-through in order to fully experience the levels themselves as
they should be. Thankfully, Tropical Freeze did remove one
of the more annoying aspects of the original game, which was the blowing mechanic, which
is now replaced with the far quicker–and context-dependent pulling mechanic, which
greatly improves the game’s pace if you are seeking collectibles. Another major addition are the underwater
levels–yep, the giant ape finally learned to swim…again. Now I’m normally not a huge
fan of underwater levels–and while Tropical Freeze’s are still on the lower end of my
list of “favorite levels from the game”–they’re still among the best swimming levels I’ve
played. And this is largely due to the fantastic controls–somehow, Retro managed to make a
giant swimming ape feel…graceful? But a large part of what makes the swimming
levels–and all the levels in general–so enjoyable, is just how atmospheric they are.
The way the visuals and music work together with the gameplay to bring these levels to
life is nothing short of sublime. Let’s just soak in the wonder of Grassland Grove for
a few moments. Man, I almost feel bad having to interrupt
it! Not only is this game gorgeous, but the soundtrack
is simply brilliant. Although I enjoyed the music in DKCR, it fell short of the high-standards
set by the games predecessors–a standard that Tropical Freeze manages to live up to,
which is no doubt in part due to having one of the series’s original composers, David
Wise, return. Now there is one major new feature that I
haven’t mentioned yet–which is a little surprising considering its prominence in the game. And
that’s the fact that you can now choose between one of three different partner characters,
being Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky–each of which brings a grants DK a different ability. Diddy
allows you to hover in the air briefly, while Dixie allows you to essentially perform a
double-jump for even more hang-time, while Cranky uses his cane allowing you cross hazardous
terrain. But here’s the thing: the 3 characters aren’t
really created equal. In fact, I couldn’t find a single reason to ever use Diddy Kong,
besides for nostalgia’s sake, because Dixie seems to be better in every way, allowing
you to fly much further than Diddy can. And while Cranky’s ability is occasionally useful,
its far too situationally-dependent to be of use most of the time. So for the bulk of
the experience, I ended up using Dixie. Now this isn’t really a complaint–I mean, it
certainly didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the game any. But it is a little odd that the
game introduces a pretty big feature that ultimately didn’t end up mattering much, in
my experience at least. Now speaking of characters, I did want to
touch on the new enemies introduced in this game briefly: the Nomads. I found the fusion
of vikings with arctic-animals to be a lot more personable than the Tikis featured in
DKCR, and really serve as a decent Kremling replacement. Even the boss fights this time
around are a lot more creative than before All in all, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical
Freeze isn’t just the best platformer I’ve played in the last 3-years–it’s also the
best game currently available on the Wii U. Period. If you’re old enough to have played
the original series, it really is the Donkey Kong Country 2 to the original game. That
is to say that, although it’s not as ground-breaking as the first, it more than makes up for it
by improving upon the original experience in every conceivable. It’s simply a beautiful
experience from beginning to end that that consistently delivers surprises around every
corner. Which is why I’m giving Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a full 5 Stars out
of 5. Thanks for watching and make sure to stay-tuned to GameXplain.com for more on DKC:
Tropical Freeze and other things gaming too!

 

100 Responses

  1. Defense Mode

    February 22, 2014 7:25 am

    It's obviously not the best game on the Wii U. 3D World currently holds that title (Intill X comes out) but I'm still getting it.

    Reply
  2. Mike Bologna

    February 22, 2014 4:19 pm

    This review is the polar opposite of GameSpot's review. Thank you GameXplain for appreciating the detail put into this game. It really is a gorgeous game.

    Reply
  3. NeffJeff95

    February 22, 2014 7:39 pm

    I just saw gamespots review and this one back to back, and I can honestly say you know what you are actually talking about. Great review

    Reply
  4. That Guy In The Corner.

    February 23, 2014 8:55 am

    i personally really like the game but its slightly inferior to dkc returns for a few reasons, i liked how your able to choose between 3 partners all of which are fun to use with dixie being the most fun due to her extra height when floating but cranky is the worst in my opinion not just because he cant allow you to float but because you have to hold down the jump button in order to pogo jump once and hold it again and again for which jump each and it just seems a little bit annoying in my opinion but it is sadisfying when you hurt an enemy with him.

    the music is still great and i like how they added more chanting which is really cool.

    the stages are even more atmospheric this time around which is really cool and it helps the stages stick out.

    as for things i disliked the difficulty can get a little bit out of hand (fruit factory im looking at you…) and almost all of the bosses suck except for the owl and the polar bear but for the most part they just arent fun, and let me just say that the final boss ESPECIALLY sucks due to how anti climactic it is and its way to drawn out for my taste, and the water controls feel a little bit too  at times especially during the blow fish boss fight which is even worse than the final boss fight due to the water controls.

    over all i really did enjoy the game but as i said before dkc returns is slightly better, pick up both if you havent already! im gonna find and listen to the soundtrack now.

    Reply
  5. WhiteFangofWhoa

    February 23, 2014 8:22 pm

    1:20 Bramble Scramble, you wily old so-and-so, we meet again!  At least this time we don't need Squawks to get through it ;).  Looks great overall; DKC2 is generally considered the high point of the trilogy, perhaps this will be as well.

    Reply
  6. zedersteel966mod

    February 24, 2014 3:36 am

    I guess I't a good thing I've been replaying through the first two games, now I should play through Returns and get the game!

    Reply
  7. Marshall Fogg

    February 25, 2014 4:31 pm

    It's what the original DKC 2 was to DKC, huh?

    That's mighty high praise, sir.

    Good review. This will be one of my first games I get once I get a Wii U.

    Reply
  8. Voffsing1

    February 28, 2014 2:07 am

    Great review. This game is indeed amazing. While I do agree that Diddy isn't quite as useful as Dixie, I have to say that Cranky is a great character to use as well.

    Reply
  9. Poltergeist Hunter

    February 28, 2014 11:45 am

    Like your review and after watching I'm defiantly picking this game up but you talk a little too fast brah lol

    Reply
  10. Bland Jamb

    March 2, 2014 8:08 pm

    I've never played a Donkey Kong game, but have always wanted to, so should I get this game even though I've no prior experience?

    Reply
  11. TastyApple92

    March 5, 2014 3:04 am

    I just want to say first that I have this game and I have beaten it 100 %. As that being said I was kinda dissappointed with this game and I had huge expectations for this game since I loved Returns on the Wii. I didn't really see any use for Diddy, Dixie and Cranky as being said in this review and I was hoping for more variation in the bonus stages instead of being identical to Returns bonus stages. It felt blend and boring after a while. The music is fantastic and David Wise did a fantastic job, I really loved the soundtrack. The platforming is similar to Returns besides the camera angles with the barrels but I don't mind that at all. I still think Returns was alot more challenging than this game but all in all this was a great game. I would give it 4 out 5 stars!

    Reply
  12. Game Queen

    March 7, 2014 2:52 pm

    OH I can't wait to pick this game up! However I'm now afraid of how you're going to rate Kirby's Triple Deluxe following such a game!  DK games are not entry level platformers so there are no limitations to how Retro can take things. They do a great job. I find both franchises fun but realize one is for veterans+challenging and the other a joyful stepping stone. Haha, either way getting both games as soon as I can afford to.

    Reply
  13. peachferrari

    March 10, 2014 8:38 pm

    Dude I usually like your reviews, but….slow….down….a….little.  The games aren't going anywhere.

    Reply
  14. alariooo

    March 12, 2014 3:08 pm

    Having just finished the game, I can safely say that Tropical Freeze is one of my Favorite games ever.

    Reply
  15. James Cage

    March 15, 2014 5:30 pm

    i heard the difficulty of this game was earth shattering and ruins the experience because at times its just pure chaos and chance that you pass some of the levels.  Is that true?

    Reply
  16. Tray Ahzz

    March 16, 2014 5:50 pm

    I just dont get this game, its just racing sidescoller. I got board with it really fast but kept going. The backgrounds looked great but same your dont really take notice because you're busy looking at your next step. Would've been great to enjoy that level artwork.

    Reply
  17. CIDdrums

    March 22, 2014 7:29 am

    I agree that Dixie is generally most useful to complete levels. If you are doing time trials and want medals sometimes the other Kongs are best. Diddy's rocket pack can get you through water levels super fast and Cranky can really help you in some boss battles.

    Reply
  18. DailyNytemare Man

    May 3, 2014 9:23 pm

    Grassland grove was easily the best zone so far in my game. I can't stand the beach/sand biome area. It reminds me of returns and I really disliked returns. Plus they force you into water levels which you'd think they'd have learned by now how many people like myself really don't care for much.

    Reply
  19. SteelDialga

    May 8, 2014 6:25 am

    I only have 2 problems with this game. The jumping feels very weird. I used the game pad by the way. And the interaction with the background and environment. Sometimes I'll be going through a level and I see a thing I want to hit but when I hit it nothing happens and I take a hit.

    Reply
  20. Queen Hela

    May 25, 2014 2:55 pm

    Honestly this games is kinda fustrating sometimes i have to use invetory in almost every level but overall its a really fun game!

    Reply
  21. syks

    June 5, 2014 5:30 pm

    is this game really that good? i enjoyed the snes games but not the wii so much,still liked and enjoyed it just not as much as the snes ones,if this is better than the wii game i may buy it 🙂

    Reply
  22. My Wife doesn't believe in me

    June 28, 2014 10:50 pm

    I don't like underwater levels either – crash bandicoots on ps1 and 2 – scarred for life

    Reply
  23. HYPNOGLANCE87

    August 21, 2014 2:01 pm

    Stickerbrush symphony,Lockjaws Locker,and i think some other nostalgia from the SNES are in here as well.Thank you david thank you awhole lot. 🙂

    Reply
  24. SalsaSpartan7

    December 29, 2014 3:10 am

    Yo GameXplain! Your Review just 100% convinced me to get Tropical Freeze. I was at first unsure cuz I didn't really enjoy DKC Returns on the Wii that much, but I saw the Launch Trailer for DKC Tropical Freeze and the Trailer was AMAING! Especially the Music. Then I see your review and how much you guys love the game which ended up convincing me to give this game a chance. I could tell you guys were in love with this game. The IGN review was boring me to death. 

    Reply
  25. Emporio Cengiz CanLI

    February 5, 2015 1:11 pm

    Playing it right now.. I didn't play any Dk game since the snes version. I can say that I am really shocked how well Tropical freeze is done; pace of the stages, position of the check points, hidden puzzle pieces, graphics, ambiance and music. Everything is fitting well together.
    Such a masterpiece must be owned by people who like platformer games.

    Reply
  26. spinz

    March 14, 2015 9:37 pm

    You failed to mention the bullshit the game sometimes throws at you. Yes I enjoy the game very much and it is the best platformer on Wii U but the boss battles were in my opinion, a little on the rough side. For a game marketed at children as indicated by the age rating of 3 on the box, I doubt any children could beat the game. I'm all for a challenging experience but even for me the bosses were a bit much. I also thought some basic things were out of touch, kong barrels not where you'd like them to be and having two checkpoints near each other in an easy section but no checkpoints in a hard section of a level.

    Reply
  27. PainOS33

    April 26, 2015 9:57 am

    Sorry but no, Dixie isn't the best sidekick. Cranky is 100 times more useful when you know how to play with him. And he's so much fun

    Reply
  28. Kevin Samuel Haber

    June 16, 2015 6:44 pm

    What is with all these WII U games being 2d side scrolling games?. A step back from the DK 3D.

    Reply
  29. kyoku1982

    November 9, 2015 9:53 pm

    I Really wish Retro would take some control design lessons from the old DKC games. Tropical Freeze has great level design but not great controls, especially the mine cart and rocket barrel.

    Reply
  30. seeyoshirun

    December 3, 2015 5:02 pm

    More than 18 months later, I'd say this is still the best game on the console (although we'll see if I change my mind once I get my hands on Xenoblade). You mention the way the soundtrack fits with the visuals and gameplay, and I think that's a big part of why I love it so much; it's extremely rare to see a game whose visual design, sound and gameplay are in such perfect harmony with one another.

    And I agree, the diversity in the levels are fantastic and I'll bet you're right and I can describe my favourites in five words or less and you'll know which ones they are:
    – gorgeous silhouette underwater level
    – climbing UP an avalanche
    – zip lines on owl mountain
    – owls and musical instruments
    – storm in a dry field
    – fires after said storm
    – saws and mine carts
    – cave full of dynamite
    – jungle fruit on a conveyor
    – jungle fruit with underwater sections

    Also, OH MY GOD THAT SOUNDTRACK. <3 <3 I love that there's so much gorgeousness there that many pieces are blink-and-you'll-miss-them, like that almost Mickey Mouse-esque riff that plays only if you respawn at the last checkpoint in Sawmill Thrill. Or the really cheerful beach theme that only plays at the very beginning of the first stage in world 4, before you go underwater.

    Reply
  31. Rodrigo Prado

    December 5, 2015 6:37 pm

    Mal Knew que this would become a reason to buy the Wii U, and Increase the sale of the Wii U, we Were fools is not expectation, this is one of the best games of the Wii U, if not the best, David Wise returned, face .. . hE TOO surpassed, it not only turned to writing songs, but he came back to have a fondness for the Donkey Kong games, thank you Nintendo, However much you err, you are to me the best company XD

    PS. I'm sorry, I am Brazilian and I'm using Google translator, sorry that the situation in our country is not good, but we will overcome XD

    Reply
  32. Sylvester Wallace

    December 7, 2015 10:10 pm

    i was upset at retro when they passed on metroid to make this but after playing dktf I'm eating my words this is a fantastic game in every way and I'm happy to own it

    Reply
  33. Samuel Underwood

    January 13, 2016 12:21 am

    In my opinion, Tropical Freeze is the best 2-D platformer of all time. It is a shame how critically under rated this game was. It was a masterpiece by Retro and it deserved to gain much more attention and sell much better than it did.

    With that being said, the game wasn't perfect, I didn't mind the banana challenges much, other than the fact that if you messed one up, you had to play the entire level again.

    Another one of my very few problems with the game is the fruit world, with every other world being so fun, the fruit world was punishing, overly-difficult, and not much fun.

    Reply
  34. Shenzy Brosee

    January 16, 2016 9:30 pm

    This was a fun game. Although I was thoroughly disappointed when I realized that it wasn't at all like the snes titles, it didn't matter. This game developed its own personality and the multiplayer was more fun than I could've imagined. It was also a beautiful game that didn't lack any creativity. I was thoroughly entertained and impressed when I first began the game. Then came the hard levels. I became even more interested in the game when I soon learned that this wasn't an easy game. I liked how it reminded me of the constant struggle and challenge that little me faced when playing DKC 2. It was nostalgic, beautiful, simple, and something I could enjoy with a friend. 9.6/10

    Reply
  35. Saku

    December 22, 2016 11:24 am

    Since this and Captain Toad are on Nintendo Selects, I wondered which one to pick AND I ALMOST PICKED CAPTAIN TOAD!!!

    Reply
  36. TheMack625

    December 25, 2016 7:35 pm

    There's no denying it. Tropical Freeze is a fantastic game! Everything about it exudes quality.

    The visuals are flat-out gorgeous, the music is brilliantly composed, and the challenge is fun and entertaining.

    One criticism for me is that Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky are not fully playable in single-player.

    Regardless, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is certainly one of the best games of the recent generation.

    It will not replace New Super Mario Bros. U as my favorite 2D platformer or Super Mario 3D World as my favorite adventure game on Wii U, but Tropical Freeze is one gem of a game. 😃

    Reply
  37. Rick D

    December 28, 2016 5:09 am

    i remember when dk country came out for snes, i got it brand new for christmas that year, and i remember telling my brother, that it was the best graphics we'll ever see. it was truly a ground breaking game. you know what other game they should DEFINETELY bring back again?? EARTHWORM JIM. those were the days

    Reply
  38. FuriousBanana 21

    September 15, 2017 7:41 pm

    Gamexplain deserves way more subscribers than gamespot because game x plain at least has good videos and reviews

    Reply
  39. TimG57867

    November 6, 2017 1:40 pm

    Diddy is better than Dixie underwater and his over has better momentum from DK’s roll which is more speedrun friendly.

    Reply
  40. Supremacy Sammy

    February 4, 2018 11:49 am

    Can anyone tell me if this game has any temple levels(k levels) that are as hard as the ones on DKC Returns? If I already 200%ed DKC Returns, will Tropical Freeze be a challenge?

    Reply

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