• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Video Game Review – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (2014)

BySean Clark

Jul 30, 2022
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze cover

Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to experience some of the most popular platformers on the Nintendo Switch, including Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey. As my desire to explore more high-quality games on the Switch, one game that multiple people recommended was Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

I had never previously played any Donkey Kong Country games as the only exposure I had to Donkey Kong were his appearances in Mario sports and party games such as the Super Smash Bros. franchise. After receiving the game as a Valentine’s Day present, I immediately got sucked into the game. The introduction was extremely positive with a gaming experienced that challenged me in a satisfying way, along with fantastic world design and an incredible soundtrack.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Switch is selling incredibly well in Japan – Destructoid
The Kongs preparing for battle against the Snowmads.

Tropical Freeze is a side-scrolling platformer that was originally released for the Wii U in 2014 before being ported to the Nintendo Switch in 2018. As the Kongs (Diddy, Dixie and Cranky) celebrated Donkey Kong’s birthday, the island was taken over by the arctic dwelling Snowmads as they turned a tropical paradise into a frozen wasteland.

The Kongs are blown away to other surrounding islands, and must island hop to make their way back to Donkey Kong Island and reclaim their home.

There are six worlds with a seventh bonus one and multiple levels within them, each culminating in a boss battle that requires nine hits to be defeated. DK can roll through, pound and throw enemies while climbing and clinging onto ropes and branches.

In these levels, DK can choose one of his three allies to help him. Diddy Kong can float with his jet-pack barrels, Dixie uses her ponytail to propel DK into the air and Cranky uses his cane to bounce on dangerous surfaces, gaining more elevation.

Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Nintendo Switch) – Digitally Downloaded
DK and Dixie Kong riding through a temple on a rocket barrel.

On top of the partners, some other mechanics include barrel jumping, mine cart racing, rocket barrels and rhino riding.

To be blunt, Tropical Freeze is a very difficult and challenging game. You are only given two health points (increased to four with a partner) and only one extra HP can be bought and implemented for one level. On top of this, the levels are designed such that if you are not careful and patient, it becomes easy to fall to your death.

While there are ways to make the game easier (Funky Mode, co-ops), beating the game as originally intended with single player mode is not an easy endeavor. I constantly got frustrated and sometimes had to take a break from the game to beat a level.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Nintendo Switch) Review - Impulse Gamer
DK and Dixie Kong fighting Skowl for the level, “Mountaintop Tussle.”

Personally, this was my favorite aspect of the game as much as it frustrated me. The game is unforgiving and, for every single level, you have to earn it with patience, skill and discipline. All the different levels provide their own unique challenges. Some examples including climbing your way through a knife-laden fruit factory, swim away from a giant octopus and ride a rocket barrel through narrow and spiky icy corridors.

The level of accomplishment I felt completing every level was immense as I earned every one, a feeling heightened by the boss battles. All six boss battles had nine health points with three phases, progressively getting more difficult throughout the battle. There was a lot of strategy and patience required as you have to learn the timing, attacks and quirks of each battle. Learning all of this was difficult, but after beating the game, my self confidence as a gamer and puzzle solver.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze announced for Switch - NintendoToday
DK throwing a Snowmad on Donkey Kong Island.

What made the journey even more satisfying was how much fun it was to experience the levels. While some of the early levels felt repetitive, the worlds created incredible atmospheres that got increasingly epic as the game went along. With the realistic art direction and immersive animation, I enjoyed sceneries such as the Savannah, ice caves, underwater coves and mountain tops. The increasing darkness of the levels helped to indicate that the end was drawing closer. The teams at Retro Studios and Monster Games did a fantastic job creating a beautiful, well-detailed game.

All of this would not be complete without a masterful soundtrack from long-time Donkey Kong composer David Wise. His music perfectly immerses you into the level, especially with “Frozen Frenzy,” a level in a dark ice cave full of electric panels. The mysterious tone and peaks in the melody add to the tension of one of the game’s most difficult levels.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a triumph for Nintendo and the Nintendo Switch – New York Daily News
DK and Diddy Kong blazing through “Grassland Groove.”

The standout track is “Grassland Groove.” World 3-1 has you climbing through a savannah filled with singing animals that create a majestic melody and chant. It sounds like a love letter to “The Lion King” with a tune that feels straight form the film. I have rarely had so much fun going through a level and I was actually sad when I beat it as I wanted to listen to the melody more.

Overall, Tropical Freeze is the best platformer I have ever played with its rewarding level design and amazing soundtrack. If you are looking for a rewarding challenge, this may be the game for you. However, if you desire an easier experience, Funky Mode allows you to play as Funky Kong, who has a surfboard that can hover and withstand spikes. The game is currently available on the Wii U and Nintendo Switch.

Rating: 9.5/10