Despite owning a lot of Nintendo hardware over the years and many purchases of the new wave of indie platformers, the Donkey Kong Country series is one that I have not dipped into before.
Luckily, the Nintendo Switch has become a haven for ports and Tropical Freeze gets the opportunity to jump the Wii U ship and give players like me a chance to play, however mixed an experience that may be.
As far as first impressions go, however, this game is stellar. The art direction is superb, one can see that an incredible amount of love and attention were given to the entire game.
Each level across the various worlds also feels interconnected, not just because of the theme, but because of continuity.
In one trio of levels, you start in a forest as spiky trees are cut down for their fruit as you dodge them and the harvesting machines. After that, you’re in a factory where the fruit is blended into a liquid, and then you’re on an ice level in a factory where the juice is turned into ice cream.
This adds a neat sense of progression and a “one more level” attitude as you want to see how each area looks as you progress.
The platforming worked into these levels is good, but not as inspired as the art is. It’s not uncommon to wildly swing from dead easy sections into a zero tolerance sequence that you’ll need to replay a dozen times to beat.
Playing as the various members of the Kong family is equally solid with weight behind the movement and a very simple set of abilities and powerups that can be learned quickly.
It just doesn’t feel very unique, and that varying difficulty is messed with even more thanks to the very powerful items you can buy at the game’s shop.
This is where Tropical Freeze adds in its new character, shopkeeper Funky Kong, who is now playable in the appropriately-named Funky Mode.
Funky Kong is easy mode here, having more health and abilities than the other characters, and even some extra additions like immunity to spikes and discounts in his own shop.
This mode is great for returning players looking to experience the game in a different way. It’s not so different that it becomes a huge selling point, however. It does make the game easier for much younger kids, but that too isn’t enough to elevate this mode anymore.
Instead, you’ll be looking for your own fun by getting a higher completion percentage thanks to a large number of collectibles and secret levels.
Trying to do more than just finish levels and beat bosses can be a chore because of the strange difficulty curve, but collectibles in levels are a treat to pick up and their sound effects are an instant dopamine hit. If you usually play in the handheld mode like I do, I recommend turning on the volume once in a while for the effects and music.
The two-player experience is a lot of fun and makes difficult sections much easier as you can burn through lives without restarting if one player remains alive.
After beating the final boss in this game I was definitely happy with the experience, but not so much so that it I’ll be raving about it in the future like I still do for Rayman Legends (also on the Switch) and the criminally underrated Tembo the Badass Elephant.
This Nintendo Switch version of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is also difficult to recommend. For returning players the new content cannot justify another purchase, and newcomers will find it a bit on the difficult side in addition to the exorbitant price.
If you’re looking to buy this game locally you’ll be paying a whopping R749. Yes this port of a 2014 game costs more than many new games and is just below the going price for brand new AAA games on the platform. Hell, at the time of writing it’s exactly the same price as Super Mario Odyssey.
Without getting further mired in talks of money and the somewhat greedy decision to price this so high, it may be a better option to look at alternatives on the Switch and other platforms.