Electronic Theatre Preview: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong Country Returns was an understated reboot of a much loved franchise that had remained dormant for far too long. Coming to retail as the final chapter of the hugely successful Wii was being written, Retro Studios’ attempt to rekindle the flame extinguished by […]
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Donkey Kong Country Returns was an understated reboot of a much loved franchise that had remained dormant for far too long. Coming to retail as the final chapter of the hugely successful Wii was being written, Retro Studios’ attempt to rekindle the flame extinguished by Rare many years ago was never going be anything more than a stab in the dark, and while it may have proven successful it was arguably the Nintendo 3DS edition that truly put the series back on the map. Now, on Wii U, we see a direct sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns coming to play this winter: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

Aiming to expand on the formula reinvigorated by Donkey Kong Country Returns, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze plays in a very similar fashion. Players will run, jump, ground pound, blast between barrels and race along in mine carts in almost exactly the same fashion, with the greatest addition to the formula being that of the interactivity in each level. Liberating the ideas used in Nintendo’s own Virtual Boy platform titles, players can move between foreground and background and interact with objects in one space that affect the other. Find a ravine you can’t cross? Perhaps there’s a barrel that can shoot you over in the distance. Path blocked by a wooden pillar? There’s surely something to be said about that explosive barrel lurking behind.

Of course players can’t simply move freely; the points of interaction are determined by the design team and do not allow transition at any moment the player wishes. This, sadly, makes the whole experience feel malnourished. It’s an interesting diversion but, in reality, everything that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze offers with this mechanic could easily be achieved on a standard single layer template. It’s purely an aesthetic decision, and taking it into account in this respect yields much more positive results: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is anything but ugly.

This high level of graphical fidelity comes into play in the infamous mine cart levels also, wherein there is far more detail in the backdrops than ever before. Rarely does it affect the gameplay – which retains it’s notoriously difficult stature – but it’s a pleasant update for a videogame where the strength is undoubtedly in the high-definition (HD) makeover as opposed to unique and interesting gameplay design.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze does come with a full compliment of Wii U features: offscreen gameplay, Wii Remote motion-control compatibility or the option to use the GamePad’s face buttons. However, none of this can mask the fact that, from the sample offered to Electronic Theatre, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the same experience that received a mixed reaction on Wii. Perhaps the series is better suited to handheld in this era of Rayman Legends and all-conquering Super Mario adventures, as one thing is certain: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze simply won’t compete with Super Mario 3D World for platform thrills this winter.

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