The original Donkey Kong Country Trilogy were my favourite games growing up. The simplicity of the gameplay, with the challenging placement of platforms and enemies was addictive throughout each of the games.Fast forward 20 years and not much has changed with the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The artwork is stunning and the level design is still fantastic. Donkey Kong along with his four friends, Diddy, Dixie, Cranky and Funky (we’ll get to him later), are here to provide even more frantic platforming goodness than we’ve seen in the past.
The use of all three characters takes the platforming in this game beyond what we’ve seen previously in the series. Each character has specific benefits and you’ll require all three of them to easily collect all puzzle pieces and K-O-N-G pieces throughout the levels. Diddy is great for getting across long distances, Dixie is great at getting a little boost to reach high places, and Cranky is great to pogo across spiked areas.
Whilst I was a fan of Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii (and 3DS), it did feel a little bit soulless. With the level design being a little subpar, the characters being forgettable and it not having the charm of other games in the series, but thankfully Tropical Freeze still oozes polish from start to finish.
Tropical Freeze’s soundtrack by David Wise was one of my favourite parts of the game on the Wii U, and it still delights four years later on the Nintendo Switch. There’s some familiar tunes here, but also a bunch of new songs that are certain to get stuck in your head as you play through the game.
When it comes to the Switch, you’ll struggle to find many games that are better suite to the portability of the console. It’s perfect to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time, and it looks and runs fantastically in both portable mode and in docked mode. The game gets difficult quite early, so I found it refreshing to be able to put my Switch in rest mode and come back to it effortlessly.
The boss battles shined when I played this game four years ago, and I was reminded with just how good they are, allowing me to enjoy them just as much this time around. Each boss is introduced with a beautiful cutscene, before a lengthy battle ensues. They’re all creatively marvellous and you’ll need to go through multiple sequences in order to beat each boss, making them a genuine challenge.
Playing through the game again on Switch was a pleasure for me. I played the game on Wii U, but I didn’t spend the extra time uncovering every secret, and getting every single puzzle piece. They’re challenging even in the earlier levels, let alone the later ones, and having the game on a portable console makes me more likely to do these things.
Collecting everything in the game is also made easier by Funky Kong. Funky Kong is only useable in a seperate mode, meaning that you have to start a new game, and you can’t go back and forth between playing as Donkey/Diddy/Trixie/Cranky and Funky. Whilst playing as Funky, you’ll get five lives, you can double jump (and hover) at all times and spikes can’t kill you due to Funky’s surfboard.
Now, at first I was sceptical (unless you’re younger), but I can actually see the appeal as playing as Funky even as an adult. It makes accessing the many collectibles a much more feasible task, and one that I’m much more likely to complete as the newly introduced Kong.
Similarly to other Wii U ports on the Switch, there’s not a whole lot of new content here which will definitely disappoint some people. Outside of Funky Kong (which is sure to make the game more accessible), there’s not a whole lot of reason to pick it up again if you already owned it, unless you didn’t uncover the many secrets that the game has to offer.
At the end of the day, Tropical Freeze is a harder sell at $79 on the Switch than it was on the Wii U four years ago. The Switches lineup is exceptional and there’s massive games such as Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey available at the same price. As far as platformers on Switch go, Kirby Star Allies is also pretty good (and an original game) and Celeste is one of the best platformers of all time and much cheaper.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an exceptional platformer that feels right on the Nintendo Switch. It's one that both experienced gamers and newcomers alike will both enjoy (thanks to the new Funky Kong mode), but probably not worth it at full price for those who picked it up on Wii U.