Bottom line: Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze is both a love letter to old-school platformers and an excellent modern-day representation of the genre. Every bit as challenging as its predecessors, this remaster is done right, with a mode for novice players, 1080p graphics, and incredibly designed levels. However, it can still be painfully difficult to beat.
- Great visuals
- Unique and fun level designs
- Plenty of game
- Addition of easier Funky Mode
- Cool platforming mechanics
- Soul-crushingly difficult at times, even on easy mode
- Sound effects/voices can get annoying
- Boss fights go on for a bit too long
Growing up, I was always a fan of the Donkey Kong Country franchise, my favorite being Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. I poured hours into those games, and what I recall most were the innovative graphics, clever and unique platforming mechanics, creative level design, and, of course, the difficulty. While Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze wasn't created by the original crew or even the same company, it still manages to have everything that a good DK game should.
Unfortunately, Tropic Freeze was originally released on the ill-fated Wii U, so it never really got the attention it deserved. That, thankfully, is a thing of the past as you can now get it remastered on the Nintendo Switch! So, if you didn't get a chance to play it before, now is your chance. If you loved the originals or challenging platformers, this is definitely one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze — What's good
|Category||Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze|
|Title||Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze|
|Game Size||6.7 GB|
|Play Time||10-30 hours|
Like most Donkey Kong games, there really isn't much story here. It's DK's birthday, and the island is beset by Arctic invaders. It's up to the Kong family to stop them. But you didn't really come here for a story; you came for the wacky level design and challenging platforming. Tropic Freeze has that by the barrel full, but the first thing that will catch your eye is the beautiful graphics.
The Nintendo Switch version of Tropic Freeze is brought to you in 1080p, and while only a slight improvement on the original Wii U graphics, it does make a difference. The level design and crisp backdrops are mesmerizing. While the game doesn't match the original Rare vision, each section is unique and feels alive. From the falling leaves to lapping waves, each world is different. There's no re-tread here, except the bonus levels; all of the scenes and subsections might distract you as you try to complete every one.
If framerate is a concern, it shouldn't be. Everything runs on 60FPS, and whether you are in handheld mode or docked, you really shouldn't have a problem playing. As someone who suffers from severe motion sickness, I honestly have no problem with it. In fact, I played mostly in handheld mode. I'm not a huge fan of the rumble feature, though. So, rather than using traditional Joy-Cons, I opted for my Hori Split-Pad Pro.
Handheld play did have its drawbacks; it can be hard to take everything in on such a small screen, and a lot is going on. Like most platformers, enemies are coming from all directions. Plus, Tropic Freeze has a boatload of secret items, collectibles, and hidden areas. True to the DK games of old, there is a lot to find in each level. Sometimes that type of game demands to be on a larger screen.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze — Platforming and level design
We've talked about how good this game looks, but the best part of Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze is its level design. Each level is different, and I don't just mean in terms of looks. Every time you enter a new level, you won't know what to expect. Are you going to be dodging enemies, swinging from vines, and timing your jumps perfectly? Or are you rocking in a minecart while the tracks collapse beneath you? Tropic Freeze is broken into seven different worlds and 63 possible levels, including bosses and hidden stages, so, there's a lot of game here to enjoy.
Don't make the mistake of going into this game thinking it's easy. You'd be in for a rude awakening. Like its predecessors, Tropic Freeze is hard. While it doesn't have the difficulty spikes that would label it Nintendo Hard, it does not go easy on you. You need precision and good timing, with one mistake costing you your life. Though the levels can be pretty harsh, it makes getting through them that much more rewarding. You just might want to throw your controller a few times before that.
Thankfully, the game is fair when it comes to checkpoints and extra lives. If you collect banana coins and bananas, plus any red balloons, you should be able to accumulate enough lives or have enough coins to buy some. Still, Donkey Kong's two heart limit can be tough.
However, new to the Nintendo Switch version is Funky Mode, which is a great way to turn the difficulty down a few notches, especially if you're new to platforming or you want to introduce your kids to Donkey Kong games. This mode allows you to play as Funky Kong, and he has a few abilities that make getting through levels a bit easier, like extra hearts and his surfboard. Using Funky doesn't exactly cheese the game, though. His abilities come at a cost, and the game has a good way of keeping the balance.
If you want to tone down the challenge, but not as much, you can use Donkey Kong in Funky Mode too, who comes with three hearts. Essentially, it's like medium difficulty. While playing as Donkey Kong, you can team up with other Kongs you find throughout levels: Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky. They'll help DK float, hover, or cane-bounce like Scrooge McDuck over spikes. If you choose Funky, though, you are on your own. If you can't decide whether you want DK or Funky, you can switch back and forth — just not during levels.
One thing you must remember is that you can't change your decision whether you choose Funky Mode or regular. So, if you pick the original mode and want to tone down the difficulty in Funky Mode later, you are out of luck. On the plus side, you do get three save slots if you want to try both modes.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze — What you won't like
While DKC: Tropic Freeze is one of the best platformers to come out on the Nintendo Switch, there are a few quirks that can get under your skin. First off, as stated, this is not an easy game. Even on the "Easy" Funky Kong mode, you might find yourself struggling. Not that challenge is a bad thing. The game is fair — most of the time. There are few instances where the game is a little cheap, though most of the time, losing a life will be no one's fault but your own.
The levels go on for quite a while, and there are checkpoints, but it can try your patience to be stuck on the same section. Also, the boss battles are extremely long; no hitting the boss three times for a victory here. Having variations in the boss battles is great, but some of them just went on for a bit too long. And with no checkpoint, if you die, you have to start all over again. This is for every boss, including the first one.
Thankfully, if you're playing Funky Kong mode, players will get an option to skip a level if they get stuck. Still, if you aren't a fan of difficult platforming or you're new to the genre, you may want to try something else first.
In addition to the difficulty, the repetitive nature of the sound effects and music can start to grate on you, especially if you're dying a lot. The soundtrack uses remixes of some classic DKC tunes, which is great for nostalgia or huge DK fans but isn't anything awe-inspiring.
A small personal nit-pick I have with the game is that you can only control two Kongs: DK and Funky. While Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky are in the game, they're only there to support big DK. Funky goes on his adventure solo. Diddy and Dixie were two of my favorites, and it kind of bums me out that I'm stuck playing as DK because he is slooowww.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze — Should you play it?
Donkey Kong Country: Tropic Freeze may have missed the crowd on the Wii U, but this remastered Nintendo Switch version has given this fun platformer a new lease on life. If you played it on the Wii U, there's no real reason to pick it up again unless you struggled with the original. Don't let the difficulty discourage you; this game can be a barrel of fun.
The updated graphics, new Funky Kong mode, and intricate level design make this a game worth playing for fans and platform game enthusiasts. If you are ready for some long boss fights, unique levels and platforming, and crazy antics with the DK crew, this is the game for you.
Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.
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