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.