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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze review

Lilt gets a new flavour, but will Wii U get a saviour?

Donkey Kong's done his damnedest over the years to help you forget he's an ape. Perhaps it's something to do with the Clockwork Orange-style rehabilitation he was presumably forced into after that unfortunate streak of lady-stealing in the '80s, but the leash-like tie he wears isn't the only mark of a primate being forced to forget his wild roots.

Rare's original trip to the Country transformed DK from Mario's adversary to his understudy, a 2D platforming rival who revelled in platforming precision. It was more or less a human pursuit: running, jumping, collecting some form of currency... There was some vine-swinging along the way, but CG Shia LaBeoufs can manage that and we ask more of our gorilla protagonists.

Tropical Freeze's coolest moments are transformative in that case, a kind of reverse evolution that sees man reverting back to his monkey roots. Far from the upright specimen we've become used to, hurrying carefully to complete a goal, DK's Wii U bow is more fun when it has you messing around with the environment he would have previously ignored on his way to punch a Kremling in the snout.

The Arctic Monkeys

It's a shift that alters how you play the game, but you might not notice it for a time; on the surface this is a simple expansion of Retro's first revival of the series. Donkey Kong Country Returns saw you travelling between themed worlds, each split into six to eight levels, fighting to regain the Kong clan's banana hoard, stolen by an army of living drums, the Tiki Tak Tribe. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze sees you travelling between themed worlds, each split into eight to 12 levels, fighting to regain the Kong clan's island home, stolen by a mystical army of arctic beasts, the Snomads. DK's hardly David Bowie when it comes to reinvention.

It's what Retro's expanded within that template that proves to be his missing link. Returns was best when you used its environment. Take Mangoruby Run: as predictable, pattern-led boss battles rounded off each world, the one outlier, a fight set across five grass rings you were forced to grab onto, climb over and swing off of to survive, was a marvel, a moment of innovation in a game that far preferred to riff on old ideas.

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  1. Yell-Darb Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 09:47

    I saw the advert on tv sunday, I love Brian Blessed, but the ad just dosn't have the draw factor like DKR had with Ant & Dec! I will get this game as I'm a massive Ninty mark & I believe DK games have a much longer life span then many other games out at the moment. However, I do think you were harsh with the rating. 86% is the same you gave Mario Bros. U!

  2. 5OUNDWAVE Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 09:57

    great reveiw can't wait to play this later (hurry up postman) !

  3. KGTurner Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 10:19

    Expected it to get more(percentage)but can't wait to play this game after really enjoying the 3DS Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

  4. DaleBiederbeck Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 11:22

    Should have got at least a 90%, at least when judging what usually constitutes a 90+ from ONM. The demos I've played alone were wonderful. I'm surprised this didn't get a higher score, all things considered.

  5. blu fire Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 12:10

    I have a feeling this will be one of those games in 5 years time that people are going to say is underated.

  6. E123-Fawful Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 14:15

    A much better review than Gamespot's "review" which whinged about how the game was hard and saying the environments were "bland".

    A fair score and close to the general consensus so really don't have any issues with an 86% compared to Gamespot's 6/10.

  7. RedDwarf Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 17:46

    Its proof that review scores don't matter when other places give a low score compared to the Wii version.

  8. bones0898 Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 18:03

    Just got it and it rules. Doesn't take long for it to get really hard though. As for gamespot i think they gave the first zelda game on wii only 86 or 88 lol.

  9. DaleBiederbeck Friday 21st Feb 2014 at 18:30

    Just got it and it rules. Doesn't take long for it to get really hard though. As for gamespot i think they gave the first zelda game on wii only 86 or 88 lol.


    GameSpot are a bunch of hipsters. They give most notable games lower scores than everyone else solely for the purpose of giving notable games lower scores than everyone else.

  10. Benjy3DU Saturday 22nd Feb 2014 at 11:30

    This platformer got 86% for relying on old ideas, but there are plenty of lovely, enchanting, surprising new ones! Not to mention the soundtrack is amazing and the graphics are eye-popping.

    New Super Mario Bros. U, is a game that is ALL old ideas (apart from the Van Gogh level). It's got slightly better HD graphics (it's not exactly eye-popping) than it's Wii predecessor, and its barely got any new tracks... and yet these 2 games got the SAME score...

    ???

  11. MatthewONM Saturday 22nd Feb 2014 at 11:36

    This platformer got 86% for relying on old ideas, but there are plenty of lovely, enchanting, surprising new ones! Not to mention the soundtrack is amazing and the graphics are eye-popping.

    New Super Mario Bros. U, is a game that is ALL old ideas (apart from the Van Gogh level). It's got slightly better HD graphics (it's not exactly eye-popping) than it's Wii predecessor, and its barely got any new tracks... and yet these 2 games got the SAME score...


    They're very different platformers. DKC is very much about blockbuster flashiness, while Mario is a far more sophisticated platformer but less OTT with it. The videos people post of mad Mario platforming feats simply aren't possible with Donkey Kong Country, although it makes up for it by being more exciting on the surface. Different games for different gamers - I'm happy with the scores for both.

  12. bones0898 Saturday 22nd Feb 2014 at 13:28

    Yes but Super Mario Bros U is over a year old. This is the better game and I got it for 32.99. giving me enough change from fifty to buy a litre bottle of russian vodka. And I got a keyring to boot. I am not a big drinker but did enjoy that vodka and not finished it yet lol. Regarding my score that is a work in progress too till I finished it normally. But atm 86 sounds a little harsh.

  13. JAB_1983 Sunday 23rd Feb 2014 at 17:03

    Hi guys, was hoping for a bit of help...
    I'm buying a Wii U in a couple of weeks and want to pick up two out of these three:
    1. Super Mario Bros. U
    2. Rayman Legends
    3. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
    I don't want all three (yet anyway) as that would probably be overkill on 2D platformers but cannot decide for the life of me which two to get. It changes daily. So if any of you have played all three and can offer opinions that would be much appreciated... By the way, these aren't the only games I'm getting but are my biggest dilemma. Nice dilemma to have mind. Cheers!

  14. MatthewONM Sunday 23rd Feb 2014 at 17:11

    Hi guys, was hoping for a bit of help...
    I'm buying a Wii U in a couple of weeks and want to pick up two out of these three:
    1. Super Mario Bros. U
    2. Rayman Legends
    3. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
    I don't want all three (yet anyway) as that would probably be overkill on 2D platformers but cannot decide for the life of me which two to get. It changes daily. So if any of you have played all three and can offer opinions that would be much appreciated... By the way, these aren't the only games I'm getting but are my biggest dilemma. Nice dilemma to have mind. Cheers!


    Hey there. Rayman Legends is a must buy, in my opinion. After that, I'd probably go for Donkey Kong Country if you want a game that works the Wii U slightly harder. If you're interested in mutliplayer or deeper skill play, you're better off with Mario Bros. U, as DKC is pretty crap in co-op. Hope that helps!

  15. JAB_1983 Sunday 23rd Feb 2014 at 17:40

    It does help, thanks! As it happens, they were today's current leaning. I'm not too fussed about co-op on a platformer, though I'm sure it can be fun. Will have Mario 3D world should the mood take me anyway. I guess I'll just stop faffing and go with those two then. Plus, there's the added brucie that Rayman can be picked up at some bargain prices. Thanks for the reply!

  16. shadowlugia101 Sunday 23rd Feb 2014 at 22:45

    I'm absolutely loving this game! It picks up from where returns left off, and the graphics are amazing as well, the return of water levels and dixie and cranky's inclusion makes it way more varied, personally I thought this game should be 90% at minimum, I much prefer it to other games like W101 and Zombiu which personally I really didn't like and thought were over hyped

  17. DaleBiederbeck Monday 24th Feb 2014 at 07:01

    I'm absolutely loving this game! It picks up from where returns left off, and the graphics are amazing as well, the return of water levels and dixie and cranky's inclusion makes it way more varied, personally I thought this game should be 90% at minimum, I much prefer it to other games like W101 and Zombiu which personally I really didn't like and thought were over hyped


    I'm with you, ZombiU and Wonderful 101 both kinda sucked...

  18. samus_killer Monday 24th Feb 2014 at 12:02

    "Numerical scores are the most important part of any review and any previous praise on said game should be completely ignored".

    Why do people have this mentality? It's stupid.

  19. Neku Wednesday 2nd Apr 2014 at 22:41

    I pay more attention to the written summary than the score of a review. It is possible to have a brilliant time with a game that doesn't achieve a 90+ return in the score stakes.

    86 is a really solid score. The write-up is very good as well. It's a well received game overall which may lead to some feeling it deserves a notch or two more.

    I'm more interested to find out which ONM members completed the game and had fun doing so. I am still in the process (6-8) and am having an absolute blast. It's one of my favorite games in many a year.

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