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Donkey Kong Country : Tropical Freeze Wii U Review

Cart: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Cab: Wii U
Coin: Nintendo

It seems strange now, but I was mildly disappointed when Nintendo announced that the Wii U game Retro Studios had been working on in secret wasn’t the HD Metroid Prime mega game that we had all been waiting for, but was another Donkey Kong Country title, Tropical Freeze.

The venerable DKC games, long one of the series that grumpy old gamers had wanted to return, has done so in stunning style with Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii and later, for 3DS, yet the announcement of a new game was met with a collective sigh by all and sundry, despite the fact that Retro were once again behind the reins.

HD fur! etc

HD fur! etc

I am happy to report that Retro Studios have done it again, and proven that pure 2D platformers can still live side by side on the shelf with all the latest grey/brown blockbusters, if done with enough passion and talent.

The first thing that strikes you when playing Tropical Freeze, after the gorgeous visuals, is the clear work Retro has put into the feel and movement of DK. His momentum is now a little more solid and considered, with each landing having a real weight to it, and the pace of the game when transitioning from slow sections to faster, off the cuff parts, has also been tightened up. The fact that this runs at a constant 60 fps is just icing on the 720p cake.

It is an incredible statement to make, but this really does play better, and feels more interesting, than the recent New Super Mario Bros games. This is the best 2D platformer in years and years, as Retro has really gone to town on the content built around the near perfect gameplay core.

The levels are huge, especially in comparison with the bitesized approach of recent Mario games, and the developer has got the checkpoint, lives and continue system just right, meaning that you are always challenged, but never exasperated. DK’s skill set has been refined, but the things you end up doing with some of his basic abilities are, quite frankly¬†ridiculous, with some levels being simply astonishing to watch play out, let alone attempt to control.

The later stages are gorgeous

The later stages are gorgeous

This time, Donkey Kong is joined by three members of his simian family, Dixie, Diddy and Cranky Kong. Each adds traversal abilities to the game, with Diddy adding a short rocket powered float, Dixie a Yoshi-style air climb and Cranky a brilliant Duck Tales walking stick bounce. In single player, the extra kongs sit on DK’s back, adding their abilities to his, when he can find them, and in the two player cooperative mode they are controlled as an independent second character.

The co-op mode is only playable locally, but the lack of online play is no doubt due to potential network problems ruining gameplay. There are online leaderboards, however, along with the usual Miiverse community.

Tropical Freeze is destined to be remembered as a classic game. The music, graphics, levels and gameplay will live long in the memory as a reminder that there should always be room in the videogame industry for games that are fun, and that the word ‘fun’ itself should not be considered as such a dirty word. I was talking to a friend recently, who mentioned that he had an epic night playing Call of Duty the previous evening. I told him that it sounded like fun. “Fun?” he said. “I’m not a bloody kid mate”.

It is a sad state of affairs when we have run so far away from any suggestion that what we all do while playing games is simply having a bit of fun. Well, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze isn’t afraid to admit what it is: a game. A brilliant game at that, and one that is a joy to play through.

For the first time in a long, long time, the best 2D platform game of the generation is not a Mario game.

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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.

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