Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

We had to wait a little longer than expected, but the wait is finally over. Donkey Kong returns to Wii U in the stunning Tropical Freeze by Retro Studios. Just like the successful reboot ‘Donkey Kong Country Returns’, Tropical Freeze offers everything you could possible wish for.

The game starts with a celebration. The Kong family is celebrating Donkey’ birthday with a special banana. Everyone is relaxed and enjoys the party. The mood suddenly changes when the island is under attack by strange looking Vikings. The Vikings attack the tropical island and steal all of the bananas. To make things even worse, they brought some freezing temperatures with them, resulting in a snow covered island. Time for the big Kong to step forward once more!

First thing you’ll notice when you start playing, is how gorgeous everything looks on Wii U. It’s the first time we can witness Donkey Kong in true High Definition graphics and it’s a blessing for the eyes! Retro Studios didn’t hold back on bright colors and even added some very artistic sceneries. Each world has its own theme but they all have one thing in common, the gorgeous atmosphere created by Retro and realized thanks to the Wii U’ extra power.


It won’t come as a surprise that Tropical Freeze features some standard worlds such as the beach – sea – jungle and more. Aside of those rather typical worlds, there also are more innovating ones such as the Savannah or Autumn Heights (floating forest !) worlds. All worlds are divided into smaller levels that you’ll need to complete. When you manage to finish all levels in a certain world, it’s time to face the boss and advance to the next world. This all sounds familiar but it offers a lot of fun.

The reason why you’ll enjoy playing world after world is the big variation in the levels. Most of the levels are typical 2D side-scrolling levels where you’ll have to maneuver Donkey Kong through several obstacles and enemies. While running through a level, you can collect the K-O-N-G letters for more points and extra challenge. Don’t be mistaken however, just like the original game, Tropical Freeze offers a true challenge to complete.

Just like in other Donkey Kong games, the game asks a lot of the gamer. You have to be able to dodge enemies, jump from platform to platform, time your jumps precisely and this with just two changes. Donkey Kong only has two hearts, this means you can only be hit two times before you have to start over. This means you must be able to control Donkey Kong exactly the way you want. It’s good to know that Retro Studios fine-tuned the controls and everything works just perfectly. You can play this game with the GamePad or more traditional Nunchuk set-up but both work very well!


Tropical Freeze is the perfect Wii U game.


Even with such great controls, the game still offers a rather big challenge but that’s a welcome change. To make things a little easier, you can carry a buddy on your back.

This buddy system expanded in Tropical Freeze. In the last Donkey Kong game, Diddy Kong was your only partner, in Tropical Freeze, Dixie and Cranky Kong also join the battle. Those two new buddies have their own unique extras.

Who’s your buddy?

Dixie Kong for example can use her beautiful blonde ponytail to float in the air for several seconds. When she’s on Donkey Kong’ back, you’ll be able to use her floating ability for better controllability of your jumps. Dixie really comes in handy when you have to jump from small platform to small platform. Her ponytail can also be used to slap some nasty enemies right in the face.

Cranky Kong is a completely different story. A lot of gamers were surprised when Nintendo revealed this third playable buddy. Cranky is the oldest primal of the bunch but that doesn’t mean he’s helpless. With Cranky on your back, you can use his cane as a pogo-stick to jump on top of enemies or reach higher grounds. When under water, the cane can be used to smash enemies. Cranky Kong is without a doubt a very helpful buddy.


The third buddy is Diddy Kong and for those who played the original, yes, Diddy Kong still has his jetpack at disposal. This jetpack can be used to reach higher platform or to adjust your jumps.

All in all, the new buddy system really delivers and offers a welcome change to the gameplay. Completing the level with a different buddy will automatically result in a different experience. Retro Studios made a wise decision when they added two new playable buddies to the game. Aside of the variation, it also makes Tropical Freeze a true Sequel of Donkey Kong Country Returns.

To make the party complete, the famous animal buddy Rambi also returns! This little Rhinoceros is back and brought his well-known power to the Wii U! While riding Rambi, enemies and crates won’t stand a chance. This powerful little creature runs faster than ever and delivers some brutal attack. Make sure you don’t lose him because he’s a big help in some of the levels!

Let’s talk about the levels some more.

As said before, the levels offer great variation. We talked about the typical 2D side-scrolling levels but the game offers far more than just that. The biggest improvement are the levels where the new ‘Dynamical Camera’ is used.  This camera moves along with the player, resulting in a rollercoaster vibe. This camera point is used for fast paced segments in the levels and really adds to the vibe.

Aside of the new camera in some levels, Retro Studios also includes some very artistic levels. The famous silhouette levels make a return as well, showing a black world where the only color is the red tie of Donkey Kong. Those levels truly offer a nice sight and impressive gameplay.

But that’s not nearly all, Retro also added underwater levels, mine cart levels and even levels where you’re on top of a giant wooden rocket. Every level is completely different as the one before and this results in a huge variation of gameplay. A slow paced artistic level can be followed by a fast paced underwater level in just a blink of the eye. Retro Studios really delivered when it come to the levels.

Who’s the boss?

When you manage to complete all of the levels in one world, it’s time to face the boss of that world. Without going into details on some of the bosses, I can say that every boss has its own unique style. Figuring out how to defeat a boss is without a doubt one of the most fun things to do in this game. Every boss acts differently and looks fresh and new. The character design as well as the way they attack all fit perfectly. Be sure to check them all out and defeat them once and for all!

Shopping and searching for some good.

Besides the regular gameplay, the game also features a shop. In there you’ll be able to buy several kinds of balloons. Those balloons can come in handy to use in the regular game. A blue balloon for example allows Donkey Kong to stay under water for a longer amount of time.

The shop is also the place to be for some collectibles such as Toy Capsules. Those Capsules can be purchased with some hard earned coins. You can compare those fun Capsules with the Trophies in the Smash Brothers franchise. Those Capsules don’t necessarily add something to the gameplay but the true collector will want to have them all nevertheless!

It’s dangerous to go alone.

Everything we said until now can be achieved by only one player but just like Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii, Tropical Freeze is playable with 2 players. When two players play together, one will take control over Donkey Kong while the other takes control over Diddy, Dixie or Cranky.

Playing together with a friend is a really fun experience and lifts the game to a higher level. Both players can use their character specific abilities to help each other reach the goal. You can of course also make it harder for the other player but then you’ll miss the purpose of the co-op mode. In this mode you’ll be forced to work as a team and communicate with each other in order to reach your goal.


When you play as a team you can sometimes even launch a special attack to transform your enemies into balloons filed with life. You can activate this special attack while playing alone as well but it’s far more fun with two.

It doesn’t end with the co-op however. Tropical Freeze also features Online Leaderboards, MiiVerse and team attack modes. If we put all those features together it results in a high replay value for the game. You won’t grow tired of this game anytime soon!


With everything Tropical Freeze has to offer, we can only conclude that Retro Studios did it again. They delivered a solid platform game with tons of variation and beautiful levels. Everything about Tropical Freeze just makes sense. It’s not a lazy sequel but a true successor of the reboot. Thanks to the new buddies, gorgeous level design and boss battles, you’re sure to have a blast. Don’t hesitate, give Donkey Kong a warm new home in your Wii U system!


Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.