VPP Editor's Choice - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

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The entire gang is back! Donkey Kong himself, trusted sidekick Diddy Kong, the loveable Dixie Kong, and presenting for the first time as playable characters, the elder statesman, Cranky Kong and the totally awesome, Funky Kong.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the fifth installment in the Donkey Kong Country series and is the direct sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns that was released for the WII U back in 2010. Tropical Freeze was also originally released for the WII U back in 2014, but after the introduction of the Nintendo Switch, Retro Studios couldn't just stand by and let Tropical Freeze fall behind with the WII U. Tropical Freeze was remastered, upgraded (graphically), and re-released in May 2018 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.


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Imagine sitting there in your house, in paradise, celebrating your birthday with your closest friends and family, when a snowflake comes down and puts out the candle's flame just as you are making your wish and about to blow it out. Snow in a tropical paradise? Ha ha, real funny guys... Okay, who's playing the pranks? Wait, maybe your wish for snowfall just came true? Maybe you played the prank on yourself and didn't even realize it?

Nope! It's the Snowmads! "Arctic invaders have turned Donkey Kong Island into their personal frozen fortress, and it's up to you to save the day!" The Snowmads have come to Donkey Kong Island, turned your tropical paradise into a winter wonderland, and have set up shop. It is now your job to take back the island and drive them out.


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Gameplay for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze doesn't change much from the original Super Nintendo versions of Donkey Kong Country. You still control one character at a time [from a side-scrolling viewpoint]. Two slight differences in game play, however, do include the ability to pick up items from the ground and to pick up and throw stunned enemies (much like you do in the Super Mario Bros. series; good looking out Nintendo!).

When the game's developers remastered the game for the Switch, the resolution went from 720p to 1080p and you'll instantly be able to notice the differences in the game trailer at the bottom (as well as through some of the screenshots shared here). Another change to the game graphically is going from 2D graphics to full 3D. Again, you'll be able to see the differences in the movements of the main characters, secondary characters, and even the background.

Tropical Freeze does offer a multi-player mode; two players at one time, on the same screen, each controlling a character independent of each other. Player 1 will always control Donkey Kong and Player 2 will be able to control the second character of their choosing (choosing between Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong). If two characters running in directions gets to be too much, Player 2 can jump onto Player 1's back and have Player 1 take the reigns. As Player 1 controls movements and directions, Player 2 can take full advantage of their character's abilities. And just like in single-player mode, should one character lose a life, they can still be found and redeemed in the next, nearest DK barrel.


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Playable Characters

Donkey Kong: As the game's namesake, Donkey Kong makes his return to star in his own series. He's big, he's strong, he's powerful, but he's also gentle, he's agile, and he's just a big, giant, lovable teddy bear. Err... a big, giant, lovable gorilla.

Diddy Kong: Don't let his status as Donkey Kong's "sidekick" fool you. He may be a bit small, but he packs quite the punch. Diddy Kong brings with him a barrel jet pack to assist with crossing large gaps. He can also be controlled by a second player during game play.

Dixie Kong: She has the long, flowing, golden locks that you would expect from any heroine. Be careful though, she knows how to whip her hair back and forth and cause some havoc. Dixie can use her golden ponytail like a propeller and help Donkey Kong 'fly' through the air with style.

Cranky Kong: Cranky Kong spent the first four installments of the Donkey Kong Country series being nothing more than a secondary character, providing advice and operating a store for the other characters. Tropical Freeze is the first time Cranky is an actual playable character. All those years being the old, wise guy has paid off. Plus, you can use his cane much like a pogo stick to get yourself out of dangerous surfaces and to reach spots that are otherwise too high.

Funky Kong: You can play Tropical Freeze in 'Funky Mode' and play as Funky Kong (this is also his first time as a playable character). In Funky Mode, Funky Kong has 5 hit points instead of the standard 2 [in normal mode]. He can also double jump, hover through the air, and hold his breathe underwater for an unlimited amount of time. Some reviews have stated that 'Funky Mode' is simply taking Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze to an "Easy Mode" and making it more controllable for people of all ages and experience. Nothing wrong with playing games in "Easy Mode," I mean, most shooter games have an easy or novice mode, why not Donkey Kong County?

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Main Islands and their Bosses

Lost Mangroves: first island you will have to conquer. Aptly named for its abundance of mangrove trees, the islands offers the player many challenges including swimming and underwater levels and navigating through mines on a mine cart. Not only is the island riddled with mangroves, it also contains numerous shipwrecks and plane crash sites. Good thing you don't have to try to drive a ship or plane to get to the island (although that would make a great minigame).

Boss of Lost Mangroves: Pompy, the Presumptuous is a giant circus sea lion. Dodge and fight Pompy while also battling in an arena shaped like a half-pipe. If a giant sea lion on a half-pipe doesn't scream "frozen world," I don't know what else will.

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Autumn Heights: second island on your quest. You'll notice very quickly that Autumn Heights has a very "Swiss Alps" feel to it. You'll get to experience everything from the grassy mountains to the red and orange forests (a very close resemblance to the scenery in "The Sound of Music").

Boss of Autumn Heights: who better to be the boss of an island of mountains and forests than a giant owl? Skowl, the Startling, does what all birds do when they fight... shoot their feathers out as missiles, charge at you with their talons at full draw, and flap their giants wings to create strong gusts of wind to keep you off balance.

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Bright Savannah: The majority of the levels on this island are based on the vast, beautiful, grasslands, deserts and plains of Africa [think 'The Lion King' type setting]. Battle your way through baobab forests, a baobab forest on fire, canyons, and storms (remember Rambi the Rhino? yeah, he debuts on this island, is actually the only animal friend you can ride, and helps you weather the storm).

Boss of Bright Savannah: Ba-Boom, the Boisterous is a trio of baboon brothers determined to triple team you and defeat you with confusion and explosions of watermelon fuse bombs. Even after you have defeated two of the three brothers, the third one essentially summons their spirits and the three-on-one onslaught continues.

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Sea Breeze Cove: so you mean to tell me that we have to wait until the fourth 'island' before we battle it out primarily in the water? The majority of the levels on this island either take place near and/or in the water. You better hope that Donkey Kong can hold his breath for an extended amount of time.

Boss of Sea Breeze Cove: Fugu, the Frightening, is an already enormous puffer fish with the ability to grow even larger (and even frightening-er?). As a puffer fish, why not use your ability to inhale large amounts of water and blow it back out with force to your advantage? Use the Green Fish that are exhaled by Fugu (by throwing right back at him) or use your corkscrew technique (on Fugu's unspiked backside) to deal damage.

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Juicy Jungle: Once you get to this 5th island, you'll finally start to see the 'fruits of your labor.' Oversized fruits and berries serve as obstacles throughout the levels on this island. Instead of swimming through water levels, it's fruit juice! You better hope you're not too hungry while playing through Juicy Jungle because there's a level that takes place essentially in a popsicle factory (I mean, if the giant fruits don't get your sweet tooth tingling, the popsicles surely will).

Boss of Juicy Jungle: Bashmaster, the Unbreakable! Could that name and title fit any animal in the animal kingdom other than a polar bear wielding an oversized mallet!? If he misses you with his powerful swings of the mallet (which will actually get momentarily stuck in the ground), quickly use the mallet as a platform to jump and attack Bashmaster from above. This bear has got hops too though as he can jump [out of the picture] and crash land causing the battle arena to shake and tilt, all the while causing shock waves with each jump.

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Donkey Kong Island: And so, you have finally made it to Donkey Kong Island! What an adventure... what do you have left in you to take back your home? This is where you lay it all on the line, battle it out with the remaining Snomads, fight Lord Frednik, the Snowmad King and drive them from the islands forever. The best part about this island, the game's producers modeled each level after a world from Donkey Kong Country Returns (which is a very nice gesture, seeing as Tropical Freeze is a direct sequel). You'll go from the frozen jungles to the frozen beaches to a frozen factory to the fiery depths of a volcano!

Boss of Donkey Kong Island: Lord Frednik, the Snowmad King.... he'll use his horn to summon ice dragons and ice balls to be used as his attacks. The horns on his helmet are also just as deadly as any weapons or creatures he can summon (watch out for his charge and ramming technique). Plus, Donkey Kong isn't the only one who can pound the ground; the main difference is that Lord Frednik's pounding can cause the ground to crumble and fall into the lava below.

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But wait.... there's more!

Secret Seclusion: the seventh and final world. It is a hidden world that is only unlocked once all six previous islands have been reclaimed and Lord Frednik is defeated. Also, you have to have had collected all seven Mysterious Relics (6 are found at the end of each temple level of each world and the 7th is found once Lord Frednik is defeated). There are only 3 levels in this seventh world but clearing all 3 levels will unlock "Hard Mode." Wash, rinse, repeat!!!


Critics' Reviews

Upon its release, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze received "generally favorable reviews" across the board from most of the major reviewers/critics.

Currently on Metacritic.com, Tropical Freeze has a score of 86 [out of 100] from critics and an 8.7 [out of 10] from users.

Jeremy Horwitz at Venturebeat.com scored the game an 89/100. He states in his conclusion, "I loved the Donkey Kong Country games from the very start, and though I haven’t been thrilled by every sequel over the years, Tropical Freeze includes virtually everything the series has done right. It’s fun to play, has a ton of levels, and wows the eyes and ears with great aesthetics. More important for a platformer, it offers exceptional replay value thanks to unlockable stages you’ll actually want to unlock. There are five islands to visit before you even get to the DK Island shown in the opening cinematics, and more to find thereafter, as well."

Gamespot.com scored Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a 9/10 (Superb). Some of the good things about the game: "Demanding platforming that tests you in a variety of ways ; A constant stream of creative ideas keeps things fresh from beginning to end ; Funky Kong is a great addition that serves novice and experienced players in different ways ; and Whether playing handheld or docked, Tropical Freeze looks better than ever."

Gamesradar.com scored it 4.5/5 stars with the pros being: "Great presentation with lush graphics and charming music; incredibly challenging but never feels unbeatable; and new Kongs encourage different play styles." While the cons being: "will simply be too difficult for some tastes; and co-op play is a disappointment."

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Do you have what it takes to defeat the Snowmads and take back your island? Fight your way through the islands to reclaim what is yours.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is available now for the Nintendo Switch. Take a trip to your local video game retailers or visit Nintendo.com by clicking [here] for more information and to order your copy today.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical FreezeNintendo SwitchRetro Studios
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Chue ThaoDec 10, 2019