There’s little doubt that Nintendo has been busy with its Switch hardware with ports of both existing Bayonetta games, a new Kirby, and the venture known as Nintendo Labo all occupying a space for consumers in 2018 so far. Even then, there’s always something appealing about an experience that’s a little more traditional, and that’s just the case with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze which still manages to be an amazing game several years later. Truthfully, there’s really no excuse now for those that missed the 2014 original on Wii U to try it out on Switch, despite the fact that the title is currently retailing for the same price it launched at four years ago.
Those unfamiliar with the Donkey Kong Country property should know that it’s an incredibly difficult platforming franchise by design. Retro Studios, the firm responsible for developing the original Wii U title, did this with the intention of appealing to a new niche of more experienced gamers, so the challenge it presents is something to keep in mind before diving into Tropical Freeze.
However, Nintendo has learned from this potential revenue-limiting skill cap by implementing a new feature known as “Funky Mode”. For those that have been paying attention to the marketing behind the game thus far, many will recognize that this option stars Funky Kong as a playable protagonist. While the gnarly gorilla is a fun addition, his arrival means that the difficulty has been somewhat addressed for less experienced players. Rocking five hearts in lieu of the standard two, Funky is able to take a lot more damage – while also featuring benefits like no oxygen meter whilst underwater, an infinite roll ability, a double jump/hover maneuver, and a surfboard that prevents damage from pointy objects like spikes when treaded upon.
While a great option for less experienced fans, it’s possible that adept gamers won’t even be given the chance to try out the new character because he’s locked behind the game’s aforementioned Funky Mode (read: easy mode). As a result, those who’ve experienced the game four years prior will not find anything all that new if they’re planning on enjoying the Tropical Freeze at its intended level of difficulty.
Fortunately, it’s hard to be disappointed by the final product in any way shape or form. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is easily one of the best pure platformers ever made, that much was said when it first launched and it can still be said now with its arrival on Switch. Each level feels unique and appealing in its own way while still remaining tied to the theme of each world it’s present in. To Retro Studios’ credit, it’s some of the most brilliant level design in any side-scrolling platformer – which is why it was so challenging to put the thing down to write this review.
Anyone hoping to barrel-blast through the loose narrative and reclaim Kong Island from the Snowmads should be able to do so at a relatively good clip – provided that they’re well-versed in the genre – but those looking for more will find it as well. With puzzle pieces, K-O-N-G letters, and a myriad of hidden levels to discover, fans hoping to really get their money’s worth will be able to do so.
Still, that doesn’t quite excuse Tropical Freeze from being at the forefront of a very important conversation: How Much Should a Video Game Port Cost Gamers?
In spite of the fact that this port is retailing for the full price of $79.99 CAD, it’s hard not to recommend an experience of this calibre. Tropical Freeze is brilliantly developed and the fact that it’s now portable on a whim is a wonderful reason for consumers to check it out. This is unquestionably an easier buying decision to make for gamers that have yet to play through it after its original release, but perhaps those that have enjoyed it previously are right to bypass it for the time being.
Even then, those looking for something to tide them over on the hardware can find solace in Donkey Kong’s latest outing. That is, until the likes of Super Smash Bros. arrives on Nintendo Switch later this year.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is now available on Nintendo Switch. Nintendo provided Okay, Cool with a copy of the game for review purposes.
If you’re so inclined, you can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle. He’ll be tweeting about Donkey Kong for a while. Maybe Lanky Kong? Honestly, who could say.