GET YOUR GAME ON: ‘Tropical Freeze’ thaws out ‘Donkey Kong’ franchise

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First Posted: 2/24/2014

Video games’ favorite primate is back in a new adventure, “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” on the Wii U. Donkey Kong and his pals are starting their banana feast when it is interrupted by Vikings that freeze their island. Now the Kong family has to kick the Vikings out of their home and rescue their now frozen banana stockpile.

“Tropical Freeze” is a sequel to “Donkey Kong Country Returns” on the Wii. Although the gameplay is very similar to the last game, there are a ton of new environments, activities, and beautiful high-definition graphics.

Even though it’s called “Tropical Freeze,” don’t expect the whole game to be one big snow level. Each of the worlds is divided into themes, like jungles, beaches, snow, even caves and volcanoes – the variety of gameplay is outstanding. All of the familiar ground pounding, barrel cannons, and animal riding segments are back, along with a bunch of new gameplay elements. Some of the new features come into play during the mine cart levels; there is one with a saw mill where the level is carved out in front of you while you avoid saw blades. There is another where you ride melting ice chunks through a volcano. There are several elements of the game that take on a 3D-like appearance, where you fly into the background and back again. There are also some really cool swimming levels, which add some more variety to the gameplay. Just like in previous games, there are extra collectibles to find in each level, such as “KONG” letters, extra lives, hearts, and banana coins. The difficulty can be pretty excruciating at times, but with a little bit of practice, everything is possible to overcome.

One of the most interesting new features is the ability to play as four different characters. DK is back as the main character, along with his trusty companion Diddy Kong, but now you can play as Dixie or Cranky Kong. Each of them has their own special abilities, which can be used to complete unique challenges, and each of the new characters provide support for DK. Diddy rides on his back, providing him health upgrades and a hover ability thanks to Diddy’s jet pack. Dixie spins her hair, allowing you to boost your jump, and Cranky can use his cane like a pogo stick to jump on spikes and other dangerous obstacles. In swimming levels, you can use Dixie’s ponytail as a propeller to swim extra fast. Having these extra playable characters also introduces the ability to have local co-op, which is great for getting the extra collectibles and for tackling tougher boss battles. The negative side is that the first player has to play as Donkey, and he has no special powers. One thing that is noticeable about this game is there are fewer levels; however, the levels are filled with more collectibles and are much longer.

“Tropical Freeze” also adds some interesting online features, such as online leaderboards, time attacks, and the ability to share and watch replays of levels. They aren’t the best online features, but Nintendo isn’t known for having the best online multiplayer. There is no online multiplayer in this case; you can only play local co-op, which is a bummer. Also, there isn’t too much that the Wii U gamepad does, except for off-TV gameplay. The screen goes blank when you are using the TV, so there is no reason to use the touchpad; it is best with a Pro Controller or a Wiimote.

Overall, “DKC: Tropical Freeze” is a fantastic platformer with gorgeous graphics, tons of collectibles, and really fun gameplay. The multiplayer isn’t that great, but it can be real fun. If you are a “DKC” fan, you have to play this game, or if you are just looking for a fun game to play on the Wii U, then you should also check this game out, as it is one of the best on the system so far.

-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at