At the recent Nintendo event in Nintendo World, I — along with Staff Writer Ryan Meitzler — got our hands on Retro Studios’s latest creation, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. We both tackled different aspects and then worked together to take down the game’s first boss.
Check out my thoughts on Tropical Freeze below and look forward to my own review coming up later this month.
I started off the playthrough in the first stage of the game as Donkey Kong himself. The controls were pleasantly simple and I quickly learned how to make DK run, jump and interact with the environment like I was six again playing Diddy Kong’s Quest.
DK or any other character can interact with the environment in two ways — one involves tugging handles placed throughout levels in order to clear routes and progress. The second is by actually beating down on breakable items, which opens up secret areas, or on special items that send you to a new section of the level.
There are two ways to play Tropical Freeze — the Gamepad or the Wii Remote — and both methods are equally viable, although I prefer the later for its more interactive motion controls. For instance, when beating down on said items, the Gamepad requires a button press but moving the remote and Nunchuk in an up-and-down motion garners the same result while involving you in the game more.
Just to clarify, when playing with the Gamepad, the screen is not completely blank but instead displays the title screen and nothing more. Off-TV Play is also fully supported with this title. A Nintendo spokesperson I spoke with also stated that it’s possible for later updates to provide the pad with additional features to support the game but at that time could not confirm anything.
There are also other new features that make their debut in the game, such as the return of swimming sections, complete with the ability to attack underwater as well. Another feature is called the Kong-Pow (amazing name, I know), which is a special team-up attack that requires two players to initiate at the same time.
The move destroys all enemies on screen and as incredibly useful for facing normally overwhelming odds. The Kong-Pow gauge at the top left of the screen fills up as the characters take various actions in the game (attacking enemies, interacting with the environment, collecting bananas, etc.).
It’s actually rather fun to activate the special, as it requires both players to time the button press together. Me and a spokesperson had to resort to counting down to achieve this, which resulted in much silliness.
There are four playable characters to choose from in Tropical Freeze: Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and now Cranky Kong. Each character has unique abilities that make them equally viable in the game. Donkey and Diddy are still great go-to characters for those just starting out, although my favorite is still Dixie and she’s just as amazing as always.
Newcomer Cranky is no slouch, though, and was surprisingly spry for his age when I took him out for a spin. His high jump ability is achieved by using his cane as a pogo stick and is incredibly useful for reaching very high areas that would normally be impossible for other characters to get to.
Two-player co-op is very fun and trying to cooperate with another player in order to complete levels and fight bosses really adds to the experience. I do wish that both players could choose whatever character they wanted (player one must always default to Donkey Kong) but that’s my only gripe co-op.
The HD graphics are stunning and each level masterfully reflects both the classic design and feel of older Donkey Kong Country games while upgrading and opening them up in gorgeous 3D. This is done by allowing the player to interact with both background and foreground areas, such as when the character is traversing with the old stand-by barrels, giving each level an amazing sense of depth and fullness.
The mine cart stage was the usual fare of dodging plentiful obstacles at high speeds. Ryan was the one who played this stage and he masterfully completed it in a single go, impressing the Nintendo spokespeople watching on, and even getting a thumbs up from the Donkey Kong mascot stalking around.
After watching Ryan completely blitz the mining stage, we both teamed up for the game’s first boss battle against the Viking Sea Lion. This boss battle was no joke and took several tries before Ryan and I almost beat him (we ran out of demo time unfortunately).
Bosses rapidly switch up their attack patterns and quickly become more and more dangerous as the battle goes on. Co-op is highly recommended when facing these bosses, as having a teammate to cover you if you take too many hits is vital.
I had an absolute blast during my very brief but action-packed preview of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and look forward to soon playing the full game.