It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a Donkey Kong game. The last one I played was DK Country on Gameboy SP around 10 or so years ago. I remember trying to chip away at that one for a while, but never fully came to completing it because of the difficulty. The consensus seems to be that Tropical Freeze is a lot harder, and one of the hardest DK games in general. I guess my 2D platforming skills have increased significantly since then, which would make sense anyway considering I was about 8 when I played Country. This game definitely had challenges, but nothing I ever felt was unmanageable. There were certain sections that had me dying quite a few times, but I was always stocked up on enough extra lives to retry at the latest checkpoint, which allowed me to tackle any obstacle again pretty much right away. There was one particular segment in 6-1 that had me take a break and come back later to finish it, but even that I see mostly as an incident of me finally running out of lives rather than the section itself actually being significantly harder than other sections that I found trouble with. In a way, the game’s generous life system undermines some of its difficulty.
Starting off, the game was slightly harder to get into than I would have thought. The controls took some getting used to, and the first world in general was largely unremarkable. It wasn’t until world 2 where things started clicking for me. Once I got accustomed to the psychics and controls, it felt good to move around in. Throughout the game, there were two instances that forced me to alter my mindset. The second world stopped me from running around as carelessly as I had done beforehand, but I could still basically “wing” most of the game until up to somewhere through world 4, and definitely world 5, where I started to slow down and calculate my actions more by default. This is a process I usually go through when playing platformers. Well I suppose I could say that about a lot of games really, but it sticks out to me the most anyway in regards to platformers.
The bosses are fairly long and challenging, but not as hard as I thought they would be based off of things I heard about the game before going into it. I came in with preconceived notions about how unpleasant they would be, so I ended up looking on youtube to figure out how to beat most of them from the get go, when in reality, I probably never needed to anyway. Most of the bosses were a lot of fun to go up against, but they did usually end up being a stopping point for me every time I got to one since they slowed down the pace of the game while generally not being quite as fun as the regular levels. I liked the polar bear boss in particular while not being too fond of the underwater puffer fish fight. (Because who likes underwater?) I also enjoyed the somewhat humorous cutscenes that played before each encounter.
The water sections in the game actually weren’t too bad. It controlled well enough to manage, but they were noticeably less interesting to me than the on foot sections. I have similar thoughts about the levels where you’re piloting a flying barrel and avoiding obstacles. They brought their own share of fun, but I always played those segments wishing that they had just done another land bounded one instead. Now, the mine cart levels and rhino riding sections on the other hand, are just as ace as many of the normal levels.
There’s a lot of variety in the game in terms of visual design, and gameplay. I never once found myself thinking that anything was repetitive. It actually didn’t come to my mind at all as I was playing. The majority of the game is just fun to play through, and enjoyable to listen to as well, as the soundtrack is very nice in most areas. With that said, not as many parts stuck out to me as I would have liked. Though, that could be a product of me beating the main campaign in a little under 9 hours, and not trying to stop to collect things or find the optional areas. I’m rarely a completionist when it comes to games. The only games that urged me to find all of the collectibles were Super Mario 3D World, and Rayman Origins (the latter of which only came close). Those games were just enticing to me enough gameplay wise to warrant that out of me. While I do think this game was good fun, it wasn’t quite on the level of making me want to unlock all of the optional levels. Maybe I would have given it more of a chance on that front, but I currently have a lot of other games that I want to get to. In a way, the game already feels slightly more like a blur than I’d like to admit, but it’s definitely a good blur. Not to say nothing sticks out to me, just a little less than I’d expect.
Many of the levels felt very lively in their design. There were lot of detailed backgrounds and foregrounds. A lot of dynamic things going on in the environment that made much of the platforming feel adrenaline fueled and just made them more exciting to play through. I did have a couple instances of being confused by what exactly I was supposed to jump on, and I died each time because of it, but it didn’t happen enough for me to consider it as being real problem. There’s a shop in each world that lets you buy things that aid you while playing a level, but I never found a real need to use it. I actually just ended up buying 96 lives in the last world just for the sake of using my coins that I had saved up to that point.
To wrap up, I thought the game was pretty good. Good enough that I almost regret making the decision to end my time with it where I did since I’ll miss out on getting to know the levels a bit more by searching for all of the collectibles, and unlocking the harder levels, and playing through the game on hard mode. But again, not exactly enticing enough to make me really want to go back and do it. I probably would have given it a bit more attention though if I didn’t have other things I wanted to get to, but it served it’s purpose of being a fun little bridge to what I’ll be moving onto next.
Extra Notes –
I played primarily using my gamepad as a screen.
Never got to try the co-op.