Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Switch review

Probably the most famous monkey in video game history made its debut on Wii U in 2014. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze let us jump through six island worlds and surprised us with creative level design and a lot of playful variety.

But because the Wii U only had tough Nintendo fans in the living room, the monkey gang is now swinging onto the hugely successful Nintendo Switch to reach a wider audience. But which innovations can fans expect and are the purchase worthwhile?

TitleDonkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
PlatformNintendo Switch, Wii U
PublisherNintendo
DeveloperRetro Studios
GenrePlatformer
ReleaseMay 4, 2018
esrb-rating-everyoneEVERYONE - Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Monkey-powered porting

As usual with Nintendo, Tropical Freeze has been perfectly adapted for the Switch. Like the original, the port runs at a butter-soft 60 frames per second at a resolution of 720p or 1080p.

But the monkey game can’t hide its origin, some meager textures, and the generally polygon-poor objects are reminiscent of old Wii U times. Of course, this is even more noticeable on a large 4K matt screen than in mobile operation.

Especially in direct comparison with Super Mario Odyssey or Rayman Legends, the 2D adventure seems a bit dusty. But that’s only half as bad, thanks to the lively backdrops like the Alpatoll, which is reminiscent of a mountain world, or the lush green mangrove jungle because the detail-loving level backgrounds are still a real eye-catcher today. The soundtrack, which stimulates drumming and rocking, rounds off the successful presentation.

donkey-kong-tropical-freeze-screen

The HD rumble support provides a more immersive experience so that we feel the power of the monkey in our hands during Kong’s drumbeat. If you like, you can activate the optional motion control and thus execute roles and attacks by shaking the controller. But this is just a nice gimmick and too imprecise for the sometimes challenging level of difficulty of the game – at least in normal game mode.

Funky mode makes everything easier

In fact, the demanding dexterity inserts occasionally cause frustration. Donkey Kong Country was no picnic at SNES, and Tropical Freeze is no exception. To keep younger players and fewer patient bouncers from biting their teeth, Nintendo has introduced a more relaxed game mode in the Switch version. The new Funky Mode.

In the funky mode, we can control a new character with Funky Kong, who masters a double jump and slowly spin through the air on his surfboard while holding down the jump button. Funky Kong not only has more hearts and can withstand more hits than the other monkeys in the barn but thanks to his surfboard he is also unaffected by ground spines and enemies with horn helmets.

Besides, Funky Kong can hold its breath indefinitely underwater and roll as long as you like. But that’s not all. All help items such as extra lives or shields cost significantly less gold coins in the shop, and we can activate five instead of the usual three items in one level.

gameplay screen

Thus the Funky mode simplifies the game enormously. It doesn’t matter that Funky Kong doesn’t have any monkey buddies in tow. If you prefer the authentic feeling, we recommend the original mode. You cannot change the game variant after starting the game.

Co-op mode

Last but not least, the Switch must have a co-op mode, so Tropical Freeze can also be played with a competitor. It works even with one Joy-Con each, so you don’t necessarily need another controller.

The co-op mode is available in the original as well as in the funky mode and provides for amusement, however, occasionally the overview suffers, if the one is already somewhat further than the colleague because the possibly somewhere is stuck

Summary

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is full of charm, attention to detail and variety. The level design is still one of the best the genre has had to offer in recent years. Compared to the utterly ingenious and enormously pretty Super Mario Odyssey or a Rayman Legends, however, the monkey gang takes the short straw. From a graphical point of view alone, you can see at first glance that this is just a polished up Wii U game. The dynamic camera angles, the lively scenery and last but not least the catchy soundtrack still provide an impressive presentation.

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Pros

  • One of the best 2D jumping games of the last years
  • Full HD resolution with as soft as butter 60 frames per second
  • Great co-op mode
  • Level design is full of variety and ideas
  • It’s fun to find collectibles and thus unlock additional content
  • Funky mode lets even younger and/or untrained players have fun with the game

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Cons

  • Resolution in handheld mode lower than 720p
  • Too few new features / improvements to get owners of the Wii-U original to buy again
  • Price almost two and a half times higher than the current price for the almost identical Wii-U version
  • Wii-U version