Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest installment in the DKC series and it’s once again being developed by the masterminds at Retro Studios. The demo available to play at E3
includes four different levels, each showcasing how different parts of the game will play out. Mangrove Cove, for instance, is actually the first level in the and serves as a tutorial of sorts to teach the player how to perform the Kong’a unique abilities, both old and new. There is also an immensely long boss battle, a mine cart level and Cannon Canyons, a stage used to show off the new 3D camera angles that weren’t possible in the first game.
If you’re familiar with DKCR, then you’ll instantly know how to play, whether it’s via the game GamePad or the WiiMote and Nunchuk. It literally plays exactly the same, and that’s not a bad thing. The familiar ground slap, rolling, and so forth have all retrained. One thing that did seem to be absent, however, was Donkey Kong’s blowing ability that was introduced in the precious title. I didn’t actually try to perform it during my hands-on time with the game, but there was never a reason to leading me to believe it has been removed. If that is indeed the case, then I’m certainly happy about that!
There a couple of other things that DK can now do as well that wasn’t in DKCR. First, there is the ability to pick up certain enemies and toss them. Think of it like how Mario picks up a koopa and throws it for comparison. Another cool thing are little handles that protrude forth in the floor. When found, they can be pulled upon and the environment will potentially change, a platform will appear or sometimes it could be something as simple as a lowly banana. It’s a relatively small thing to include but one that is quite welcoming.
There is a couple of very important updates that Retro made to the game that fans of Rare’s DKC trilogy will certainly appreciate. One is the return of swimming. If there was one consistent complaint about DKCR, it was the lack of underwater levels. Well they’re back and DK has his own unique moves that can be performed underwater as well, such as a spin move that propels him forward quicker and will also damage enemies. There is an air gauge this time though, so remaining underwater indefinitely without taking advantage of air bubbles to replenish your air will result the loss of a life. And that second important update? David Wise, the original composer of the DKC trilogy, is back to compose the music collaboratively with the DKCR composer. Big news, right?!
The stages in the game have been designed beautifully. Graphically, their even more beautiful than they were before thanks to the more powerful hardware of the Wii U, but more important than that is the way Retro has given the game a 3D kind of feel. In the Minecart level for instance, there is a part where you’re literally spiraling downward around a massive tree and the effects it creates is quite stunning. It ‘s a much more immersive experience. The same can be said for the barrel blasting Cannon Canyons stage where a more crafted sense of realism is formed by shooting into the distance and with falling object consistently coming toward the screen. It’s these design choices where Tropical Freeze really shines the most.
Puzzle Pieces and KONG letters to collect have also returned. The Puzzle Pieces this time around require a bit more creativity at times to find and collect and the mini-games for them are new and fresh; they’re also more difficult too! The traditional end-of-level barrels are also back and serve the se purpose as before: the level’s exit.
The most satisfying and refreshing part of the demo that I played was a boss battle with a gargantuan seal. The battle takes place on a ramp like structure that the seal uses to slide toward you when it exits the safety of the surrounding waters. It’s at these moments when a well timed jump upon its exposed body will cause damage. The seal will also use fish and urchins to attack as well. It was challenging, fun, and one of the most creative boss fights in the entire Donkey Kong Country series.
Retro Studios has really outdone themselves here. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the best game at Nintendo’s booth this year, and that’s saying a lot considering the amount of great quality software that they have available to play. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s original–even more so than Nintendo’s own Super Mario 3D World. With such an amazing demo showcasing only four outstanding levels, I can’t wait to go bananas with the full game in November. So for you Wii U honors searching for a great title to play during this year’s Holiday season, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be the game to acquire. Don’t pass it up!