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Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Review (Nintendo Switch)

After the laid-back experience of Kirby Star Allies, we decided to punish ourselves with some seriously testing platforming action. Step forwards Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, re-released on Nintendo’s Switch console.

Okay, so we immediately regret saying that Kirby’s first Switch outing was far too simple. The bulbous blob’s adventure had us feeling invincible, as we breezed through level after level without so much as a scratch. But after spending some time with Nintendo’s latest platformer, a Switch version of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, we’ve been well and truly humbled.

What is Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze?

If you never got around to buying a Wii U, this will be your first chance to check out Donkey Kong’s latest title. Of course, if you’ve already played any of the surly simian’s previous games, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Nintendo has pretty much cut and pasted every idea which made the originals so entertaining. All while slapping a few new bits on top for good measure.

As usual, your objective is to guide the Kong through dozens of deadly levels, collecting a bunch of stuff as you go. Every screen is packed with these collectibles, although many are hidden away. Some pickups also demand a serious bit of acrobatics to reach. In addition to endless bananas, you’ll also be nabbing jigsaw pieces, those KONG letters, and coins to spend at Funky’s store. Chances are you’ll miss a fair bit on your first attempt at each level, so there’s loads of replay value here.

A helping hand

Funky’s store can be accessed between levels and it’s a bit of a blessing if you want to find every elusive jigsaw piece (by purchasing a helpful bird who squawks as you near one). You’ll also need to stock up on power-ups, simply to stand a chance of surviving the tougher levels. For while the first couple of worlds don’t pose too much of a problem, things really start to get tricky as the game reaches its halfway point.

Donkey Kong is blessed with three hearts per life, which grows to six if you free one of his pals from a barrel to join the battle. These pals can also help Kong in their own unique way. Diddy and Dixie can both keep you airborne for a while longer, with Dixie adding a useful lift to reach new heights. Meanwhile old codger Cranky can use his bouncy cane like a pogo stick, again to leap higher than normal.

However, while six hearts sounds incredibly generous, you instantly lose all of them if you happen to fall off the screen. Which happens an awful bloody lot in this game. Donkey Kong still controls like a massive cumbersome ape (unsurprisingly), so if you don’t have the help of Diddy or Dixie, you’ll have to time your jumps perfectly. And in tougher levels where the platforms are constantly crumbling away beneath you, even the fastest of reactions will be tested. Not to mention the greatest of patiences.

Differing difficulty

Fans of an old-school challenge will be right at home of course, while finally conquering a particularly tough section is as immensely rewarding as ever. Nintendo seems to have realised that not all gamers relish this level of punishment too. That’s why this Donkey Kong Country packs a couple of difficulty tweaks, to ease the pain somewhat.

In addition to the original game mode, you can also play the Switch version of Tropical Freeze in the new ‘Funky Mode’. This helps you out by reducing the cost of some store items, while also boosting the power of others. Likewise, any KONG letters that you collect in a level playthrough are saved, even if you don’t find them all.

In Funky Mode you also get the option of playing as Funky Kong. Funky has five hearts instead of just three and he also has the ability to double-jump and slowly drift back down to the ground. This makes many of the most taxing jumping bits easier, although we’ll be honest; even when trying out the game as Funky, we still ended up at the bottom of far too many pits. Mostly thanks to the trial-and-error nature of much of the gameplay. If you manage to complete any of these levels on your first try, then lady luck really is on your side.

Gorgeous graphics

Tropical Freeze remains a great-looking game on the dinky Nintendo Switch screen. Every other level boasts some kind of gorgeous animation which we couldn’t help but admire. Be it enormous structures collapsing in the background to the camera swooping around our furry pals as they rocket down a mineshaft.

Likewise, there’s just enough variety in the levels to keep your attention hooked for extended gaming sessions. Just as you’re growing bored of leaping over deadly drops, along comes a section where you’re riding on the back of a rhino. And if you’re feeling lonesome with the single player mode, you can buddy up and try co-op instead. This works using a single Switch, with two players either sharing joy-cons or using the Switch Pro controllers. With the ability to revive fallen comrades when you find a barrel, life certainly can get a bit easier.

You can grab Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze from May 4 on the Nintendo Switch Store.

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