With Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at last making its way onto the Nintendo Switch today, many are experiencing the latest Kong adventure for the first time. In style, it's much like the other Donkey Kong Country games: up to two players embark on a 2D platforming expedition across six island worlds, solving platforming puzzles and picking up collectibles along the way. But with new and improved abilities for each of DK's friends and improved motion control technology, Tropical Freeze presents a frosty challenge all its own. If you're just picking the game up for the first time, here's how to get started on DK's latest island adventure.
Trouble in paradise
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze opens with DK and his three Kong friends: Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky, enjoying a delicious cake for Donkey's birthday. Suddenly, a group of viking-like, icy creatures known as the Snowmads sail in with a big old ice dragon and blast the Kongs off their island, freezing it over and claiming it for their own. We're just going to have to get that back, now, aren't we?
To do so, the player must adventure across six islands (culminating in the frozen DK Island), defeating Snowmads and their leaders in various platforming levels, and eventually tackle the Snowmad leader himself, Lord Fredrik. In the Nintendo Switch version of Tropical Freeze, the player can control either Donkey or the easygoing Funky Kong. A second player can join in as Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky to help progress and unlock secrets with each Kong's special abilities.
Donkey or Funky?
If you've played Donkey Kong Country Returns, you'll already be a master at controlling Donkey. But don't worry if you didn't! Donkey Kong can walk, roll, and run through stages, jump and grab hanging things like ropes, and perform ground pounds to break weak ground or obstacles (such as boxes). Ground pounding can also be used near foes to stun them temporarily. He can defeat some enemies by stomping on them, but anything with spikes on top of it is deadly unless he can throw something at them from a distance.
Playing as Donkey Kong presents an average challenge. If you're struggling or just want to speed through the game, you may be more interested in playing as Funky Kong. Funky has five hearts worth of health (the other Kongs have two), and in addition to Donkey's abilities, he can roll continuously without stopping when hit. He also has a surfboard that gives him the ability both to double jump and to land on spikes without taking damage. When swimming, he never runs out of breath and can continuously corkscrew without stopping to mow down enemies.
The biggest advantage to playing as Funky is that his jumping and swimming abilities reflect the abilities of the three companion Kongs, who we'll get to below. You won't have to worry about whether you brought the correct friend along to open a secret door if Funky's in charge!
Funky friends or solo slinging?
After choosing Donkey or Funky, your next biggest decision is choosing whether or not to bring along a friend for the ride. You can beat the entirety of Tropical Freeze solo, as one of the other three Kong companions will ride on Donkey's back and lend their special abilities at a time. If you do choose a Player 2, they can select either Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky Kong. Each of the three Kongs shares some of Donkey's basic abilities and can climb on his back and ride through certain segments of the game. They also have their own special skills.
- Diddy Kong's Barrel Jet lets him hover over gaps and can be used while holding Donkey to help them both briefly hover. Diddy also brings his peanut popguns that can stun weaker enemies.
- Dixie Kong is able to shoot upward into the air or forward into powerful water currents by using her ponytail as a propeller.
- Cranky Kong can bounce across the ground with his cane, flying higher than a normal jump or allowing him to land on spikes or sharp enemies that would injure a normal Kong.
Aside from gaining the extra abilities of your Kong friends, Kongs can revive one another if they are out of hearts using special barrels interspersed throughout levels. They share a pool of Red Balloons that act as "lives" in Tropical Freeze.
A secret stash...
The objective of each level in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is simple: get to the end. Some levels culminate in a boss or mini-boss fight. Most of them are platforming levels that will have you climbing, jumping, swinging, and ground pounding your way across platforms and enemies. A handful of levels include frantic mine cart rides where you'll have to fight enemies and jump tracks to stay on the rails, and some others put the Kongs on a wild rocket barrel ride full of crazy obstacles. Take note that if you're playing co-op, only one of you can control these vehicles at a time.
If you're just here to beat the game, busting to the exit is a fine way to play. But you'll quickly notice various collectibles scattered across levels. Why bother with these?
- Hearts give your Kongs more health, which is taken away when you are touched by an enemy, enemy projectile, spike, or other penalizing obstacle. Most Kongs have a maximum of two hearts; Funky has five.
- Red Balloons are essentially "lives" and allow you to respawn from checkpoints if you die. Run out of balloons, and you'll be forced to start the level over again.
- Bananas are everywhere! Collecting 100 nets you one extra Red Balloon.
- Banana Coins are spent in Funky's store for items such as Balloons. Funky himself gets a discount, of course.
- K O N G letters, one of each, can be found in each level. If you collect all of them in every level in a given world, a secret level will be unlocked. If you collect every K O N G in the entire game, Hard Mode will appear!
- Puzzle Pieces are fun extras that unlock bonus concept art. They have no effect on gameplay.
- Mysterious Relics are present at the end of each secret Temple Level, which are unlocked by collecting all the K O N G letters in a given world. Upon finishing all of these Temple Levels, gathering the relics, and beating the final boss, a hidden world, Secret Seclusion, will open up.
Other ways to play
Aside from the main story mode, there are two additional game modes: Hard Mode and Time Attack.
Hard Mode is unlocked by collecting every K O N G letter in the game. In Hard Mode, you can only play single player, but you can select any Kong you like, including Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky. Whoever you play as, you'll only have one heart, meaning you cannot take any damage at all. There's no secret reward for finishing beyond satisfaction.
Time Attack is also a single player-only mode where you can time yourself to see how fast you can finish a level. In this mode, taking damage does not affect you, and there are no checkpoints. Time Attack Leaderboards online allow you to see how well you're doing against other players around the world. This, like Hard Mode, is just for fun and there is no secret reward for doing well.
Time to get Funky! How many DK Coins will it be?
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (opens in new tab) costs $59.99 and is out now for Nintendo Switch in stores and on the eShop.
Tell me more about the Kongs!
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