Thursday 13 March 2014

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong first appeared in the Arcade game of the same name. However, in his original incarnation he was the villain of the title, while the hero was Jump Man, who was later renamed Mario. Once Mario kicked into full gear Donkey Kong was kind of left behind. Nintendo had their mascot firmly in place, and with Mario leading them, ultimately dominated most of the 80's and 90's. Though Donkey Kong was featured in two more titles in the years following his first appearance as the barrel-chucking ape, he re-emerged in 1994 in the hugely popular Donkey Kong Country. This cemented him as a household name, and now, 33 years after he first assaulted us with barrels from afar, Donkey Kong has returned to exact revenge on us all! Well, not exactly, but you get my point.

Developed by Retro Studios who also brought us the absolutely fantastic Metroid Prime trilogy, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze does its best to try something new, but also keeps its eye on what made some of the past Donkey Kong games so great. Throughout the game it juggles both of these mantras and ultimately ends up being one of the best platforming games in years. The story is pretty simple. While celebrating a birthday with Dixie Kong, Diddy Kong and Cranky Kong, a snowflake falls and extinguishes the candle on their birthday cake. Suddenly the Kongs see a Viking-esque ship approaching their tropical island. The Vikings’ leader unleashes a strong icy wind that not only freezes the Kongs’ tropical paradise, but also hurls them into the air. Now, with Donkey Kong and company finding themselves far from home, they must journey through 6 islands in order to reach their now frozen homeland.

Each island in Tropical Freeze is wildly different from the others. From sun scorched deserts, thick lush jungles and finally to the frozen winter land that was once the Kongs’ home, Tropical Freeze is very much a visual feast. However, beyond the obvious graphic-gasms that you'll get from what's on offer here, the visual uniqueness of each level does affect gameplay. Whether that means constantly evading a giant underwater Octopus that will actually pull down the scenery behind you, riding a mine-cart through a level full of sawmills that cut a path for you mere inches in front of your character, or a level that takes place mainly inside a raging tornado, Tropical Freeze's levels are diverse, epic and a huge amount of fun.

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is shockingly hard though, but don't worry, as throughout the game you'll receive help from the rest of the Kong family. Their abilities range from Cranky Kong using his cane as a pogo stick to get around hazardous areas, Diddy Kong who can hover for a few seconds in mid-jump thanks to his barrel jetpack, and Dixie who can gain altitude due to her spinning golden hair. These abilities actually change during the water levels too, which keeps gameplay feeling fresh and unique. The game also lets you to exchange your collected Banana Coins for various power-ups and extra lives, and if that wasn't enough content for you, Tropical Freeze also contains a capsule toy machine, much like what Shenmue on the Dreamcast had. By using the capsule toy machine you can slowly unlock figurines of characters within the game. This little addition is a breath of fresh air, and will keep you coming back for more.

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze does everything right. While it does play it safe in regards as to what has already been successful in the series, it also spices things up with a few new pieces of content. This not only makes for an absolutely charming, fun and thrilling Donkey Kong title, but also the best platforming game since Super Mario Galaxy. The Wii U may not have many games that are overly impressive yet, but Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is a must-play. 

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze stops hurling barrels and chills out with a 5/5, []

Denis Murphy

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at CeX

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