Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a side-scrolling 2.5D platform game developed by Retro Studios and Monster Games for the Wii U. It is the fifth game in the Donkey Kong Country series and a successor to Donkey Kong Country Returns. It follows the adventure of Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky Kong as they are flung from their homeland and attempt to come back and reclaim it from the Snowmads, an organization of Viking-like seafarers. The name "Tropical Freeze" is a pun on the term "tropical breeze".
The game was originally slated for release during November 2013 before being pushed back to December 6; it was later pushed back again to February 2014. The game is available on disc or as digital download from Nintendo eShop, with the latter requiring approximatively 11.3 GB of free space on the console. In the Nintendo Direct Mini broadcast on January 11, 2018, it was announced that a port will be released on the Nintendo Switch, featuring Funky Kong as a playable character.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was praised for its visuals and sprawling environments, and the variety in gameplay, as well as the difficulty, were noted in numerous critic reviews.
The story begins at Donkey Kong's hut, where the Kongs are celebrating his birthday. Suddenly, one of the balloons flies off the Kong house and over the sea, where Snowmad ships are stationed. Far away from the island, a Pointy Tucks watches over them, locating the Kong house and relaying info to their leader, shrouded in a dark silhouette. Upon the leader nodding their approval, the Pointy Tuckses bring him a horn which he blows, creating a large amount of wind, as well as an ice dragon.
Just as he is about to blow the candle out, Donkey Kong notices a mysterious snowflake appear and put out the candle on his birthday cake. He turns away with a frustrated look on his face as he hears an uproar, and he and the other Kongs exit the house. The ice dragon from earlier flies toward Donkey Kong Island, turning the sea under it to ice. The Kongs are then blown away from the island by the ice dragon's intense winds, landing on the Lost Mangroves island. Afterwards, a large ship stations itself where the Volcano from Donkey Kong Country Returns used to be, and the Snowmads seize Donkey Kong Island for their own, turning it into a frosty area with continuous snowfall.
After traversing across 5 islands with each posing its own threats, the Kongs finally arrive at Donkey Kong Island under control of the Snowmads. The Kongs make their way through the frozen fortress until they encounter the leader of the Snowmads, Lord Fredrik, who challenges the Kongs to a final battle deep in the depths of the volcano. After a long battle, Donkey Kong delivers the final punch to Lord Fredrik, which sends him flying out through the roof of the Snowmad's ship, destroying it in the process. The Kongs wander out of the remains of the ship and look out from the mountainside to see the end of Lord Fredrik's fall. Lord Fredrik crashes into the remainder of the Snowmad ships out in the seas of the island, defeating the entire Snowmad clan and freeing the island from their control. Donkey Kong then notices the horn that was used to freeze their island fell out of Lord Fredrik's hands during his fall, which he catches and blows into, producing a breeze of flowers that carries the Kongs to the bottom of the island. The Kongs watch and rejoice as the breeze of the flowers flutter around the island, melting all of the ice and snow, returning Donkey Kong Island to its former glory.
The gameplay of the title is very similar to that of its predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Kongs are able to walk, run, jump, roll, pound the ground, as well as climb vines and ropes. By jumping, the Kongs can stomp on various enemies and defeat them; however, some enemies cover their top sides with shields or sharp objects, making them troublesome or dangerous to stomp on. Stomping on at least three enemies in a row grants the player one Banana Coin for each enemy stomped thereafter. The players start earning Red Balloons if they achieve a combo of eight or more enemy stomps.
The Kongs can perform Ground Pounds in various places to break unsound structures (such as crates and cracked blocks), revealing items or secret paths underground. If executed near some foes, they will become dizzy and unable to hurt the Kongs for a short time. Likewise, ground pounding can be used to empty item containers, which are found in the immediate background.
The Kongs can also roll to knock out enemies. Donkey Kong can perform this move on a short distance. Rolling confers high momentum, and if Donkey Kong jumps while rolling, he will gain longer distance than usual. If he rolls off the edge of a platform, he can quickly hop in mid-air, providing extra distance.
Diddy Kong returns as a playable partner for Donkey Kong and is the first Kong partner to be encountered in the game. Using his Barrel Jet, he can help Donkey Kong hover across pits and other obstacles for a short time. Diddy wields two popguns which can fire peanuts. Upon getting shot out of the weapon, the peanuts bounce on the ground swiftly until smashing into a wall or an enemy. If hit by a peanut, some enemies become stunned for a brief moment, but tougher enemies, like bosses, are not affected. The popguns can only be used in multiplayer or Hard Mode. If controlled independently, Diddy will cause small tremors on the ground by firing his popguns, forming an ability called the Popgun Pound that is equivalent to the ground pound.
The health meter of the Kongs is measured in hearts which can be lost upon getting touched by an enemy and the like. In order to restore them, the Kongs have to collect Heart items found along the way. Red Balloons add more tries to the game. If all lives are lost, the players receive a game over and are prompted to restart the game from where their progress was last saved.
In specific levels of the game, Donkey Kong and co. are able to ride different vehicles. One such vehicle is the Mine Cart, which carries the characters along railtracks that cannot be trod by foot. As the Mine Cart moves automatically, the Kongs can duck inside the vehicle or jump with it in order to dodge obstacles. Another is the Rocket Barrel, which is necessary to fly across wide chasms and normally has to be navigated through a series of hazards and enemies. It can be risen up or let to fall down. Lastly, there is Rambi the Rhino (who is categorized as a "vehicle" in the game's instruction manual), a powerful Animal Friend who can charge into enemies and defeat them. Otherwise invincible to most enemies even when standing still, he is vulnerable to lightnings, fire enemies, or any other object protected by flames.
Level map and bonuses
The game features a total of 63 levels (including boss and Hidden Kong Temple stages and excluding Funky's Fly 'n' Buy stations), grouped in seven island maps. Every island map is displayed from an aerial viewpoint and connects a system of paths, allowing players to take on different routes in order to reach a certain level. Once players complete a level, they open a new path or crossroad. Paths are normally navigated on foot, but Blast Barrels are sometimes used for taking shortcuts; Donkey Kong Island's map navigation, on the other hand, is entirely provided by Barrel Cannons. Warping from an island to another is always released via Blast Barrels.
On the map, non-boss levels are marked with circular pads, whilst boss stages are associated with star-shaped pads. Level pads light in several colors on different conditions: red pads mean their levels have not been completed yet; blue pads mean their levels have been finished at least once. Additionally, green pads relate to levels which have been completed on Hard Mode. Unlit/black pads are inaccessible, and switch to red when the paths that lead to them are unlocked.
On each island, the Kongs eventually encounter a shop run by Funky Kong, which is always marked with white pads. The shop, Funky's Fly 'n' Buy, offers items that can turn helpful for the Kongs, in exchange for Banana Coins. The price for each item stays the same on the course of the game. Alongside items, which include balloons of all sorts, Kong Barrels, and Heart Boosts, the shop also displays a Capsule Toy Machine, which contains collectable toy figures representing characters from the game. Each of them costs five Banana Coins and can be obtained by chance. As the players progress through the game, more toy figures become available in the shop.
An uneven number of Puzzle Pieces (5, 7, or 9), as well as four K-O-N-G Letters, are spread in each level, excluding boss levels for both and Hidden Kong Temple levels for the latter. Puzzle Pieces unlock various concept artworks in a select Image Gallery, while K-O-N-G Letters are compulsory for unlocking Hidden Kong Temple stages; each world aside from the last one contains one of these stages. While some Puzzle Pieces are scattered throughout a level in different areas, some appear only after collecting a certain group of items. Bonus Stages dedicated to collecting these items are often featured within levels, and yield Puzzle Pieces after completion. These bonus stages can usually be accessed through hidden Blast Barrels or passages blocked by Snowflake Shields.
Finishing all levels of the game (including the Hidden Kong Temple ones) and acquiring every Puzzle Piece are amongst the mandatory requirements for full, 200% completion of the game.
The player can unlock extra content. The Image Gallery is composed of artwork showing various concepts and ideas considered during the development of the game. Each piece of artwork is unlocked after all Puzzle Pieces are collected in a certain stage. The Music Gallery contains music used in the game. Each set of music pertains to one of the six main islands of the game and can be unlocked by beating the boss of its corresponding island. Dioramas that represent the six main islands of the game are unlocked the same way.
Dixie Kong can execute the Helicopter Spin with her ponytail and propel herself upward in midair. Using her ponytail, she is also able to swim against strong currents, accessing potentially secret areas. Cranky harnesses the Cane Bounce by using his iconic rigid cane to combat or overcome some obstacles that could be dangerous to stomp on, such as urchins and thorns. The Cane Bounce can be seen as a substitute to Dixie Kong's Helicopter Twirl, as Cranky can bounce off the ground with his cane and take off to increased heights. With the inclusion of more than two playable characters in the game, a premiere feature in the series, the variety of Kong Barrels has been invigorated. Players can stumble upon Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky barrels, each displaying their name abbreviations – DD, DX, and CK respectively. These barrels usually appear to contain only one character, whereas other spin like a roulette and constantly switch the partner inside, each time indicated by the before-mentioned abbreviations. In the standard mode of play, Donkey Kong can only carry one partner at the time; a partner freed from a Kong Barrel will replace one that is currently on Donkey Kong's back. If the character in the chosen barrel is already seated on Donkey Kong, the characters can regenerate their health bar upon destroying the object.
The game also presents ice and underwater levels, which were absent in Returns. The Kongs' ability to swim has been restored, though it is altered from the Mario-styled swimming controls present in the original trilogy. In effect, the swimming mechanics are similar to those of the New Play Control! version of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, where instead of pressing the jump button to gain momentum, the player has to move the stick / buttons. The Kongs are now given a gauge with limited air while underwater, requiring them to seek out air bubbles to fill it and survive. Their air gauge will also fill up if the Kongs enter an underwater Barrel Cannon, and will remain filled for as long as they stay inside the barrel. A Corkscrew attack has been added, which can be used to defeat certain enemies or collapse less durable structures while underwater.
In a vast number of areas in the game, players will encounter orange handles fixed on the surface of platforms. By standing atop these handles, the Kongs can grip and pull them to uncover hidden objects, which can be either bonuses or Barrel Cannons that launch them to other spots. Upon plucking some of these objects, the Kongs are bound to assist to certain phenomenons that manipulate the environment in some way or another.
The plucking function is used transport objects, such as barrels, DK Barrels, and Watermelon Fuse Bombs, the most common in the game. Some can be found directly on the ground and can be picked up, but other are located under handles. The player can also haul enemies, specifically those that are relatively small and wear orange helmets, like Tuff Fluffs and Tuff Tuckses. Portable items and enemies are sometimes necessary to destroy hinderances, bags with precious content, and tough foes.
Camera movement and Kong POW
For the first time in the series, the camera angle can change dynamically in some levels where Blast Barrels or mine carts are found, showing more areas and perspectives of the scenery. A new feature in this game is the Kong POW attack, which turns all enemies on-screen into items. This move can only be performed when 100 bananas have been collected, as well as when there is a partner by Donkey Kong's side.
A mode originating in Returns, Time Attack of any level can be accessed only after the player has beaten the level in question at least once. It is available on single player and is a completely optional mode, meaning it does not unlock extra content in the game, nor contribute to its completion percentage.
Before entering Time Attack, players are given the option to select a type of Kong Barrel for the course of the chosen stage. During Time Attack, players have to guide the Kongs to the level's finish barrel in the fastest time possible. Three time limits are set during the course, each corresponding to one of the gold, silver, and bronze medals. Should the Kongs reach their destination before one of these time limits is struck, they are rewarded with the medal accordingly. A special shiny gold medal can be obtained if the Kongs finish the level at a particular time within the standard gold medal time limit. The milestone times for shiny gold medals are never displayed nor made clear.
It is to be noted that, unlike in other modes of the game, the Kongs do not lose a life after their health bar has been drained completely during Time Attack, further proving that exploring the game this way has no virtual effect on general gameplay.
Checkpoint booths are not present during Time Attack. As such, everytime they fail progressing, players are prompted to restart the stage with the count reset to zero.
Additionally, if the Kongs finish a level in Time Attack mode without taking damage, their achieved medal will be accompanied by a heart icon. This icon is permanent until they achieve a better time.
Despite Checkpoint Booths being unavailable during Time Attack, Professor Chops makes an appearance as a referee. During every race, he first shows up at the beginning, waving a small green flag in the rhythm of the countdown. After the Kongs break the finish barrel, he springs on the scene with a chequered flag, indicating the race has been terminated.
Time Attack Leaderboards
If connected to the Internet and signed into Nintendo Network, players are granted the possibility to upload their Time Attack records on a worldwide leaderboard. These records are associated to their Nintendo Network IDs. The global Time Attack rank of any level in the game can be accessed by selecting the "LEADERBOARDS" section on the Time Attack menu. The rank displays other player's time records on the said levels, as well as the Kong partner used and, occasionally, a replay of their progress to be observed.
When players have collected all the K-O-N-G Letters in the game and have subsequently completed every level, an additional game mode, Hard Mode, is unlocked. Hard Mode can only be played with one Kong, marking the only occasion in the game aside from multiplayer sessions when one can take full control of Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky. Nevertheless, the characters are given a single heart to go along the selected level, and have to reach their destination without taking damage at all in order to complete the stage. Layout differences during Hard Mode are established by the removal of checkpoints. In order to complete the game 200%, every level in the game has to be finished in Hard Mode. During Hard Mode, the K-O-N-G Letters of each level are recolored from red to blue. Collecting them again in this mode replaces the red star icon next to a chosen level's name (marking that all letters have been previously obtained there) with a blue one, although it is not necessary for 200% completion and does not unlock anything.
The game features a co-operative two-player mode, where the first player is always Donkey Kong whilst the other can choose to play as Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky. Second players are able to control the Kong partner independently, but may choose to climb on Donkey Kong's back and perform joint actions, allowing player one to move both Kongs at once like in single-player mode while the other player makes use of their character's abilities. This includes the ability to use the popgun as Dixie and Cranky and perform ranged attacks. During multi-player, Kong Barrels are displayed as generic DK Barrels, akin to previous iterations. Should one player lose a life, the other can take the lead; however, the former can be found and redeemed inside the nearest DK Barrel.
The game can be played with either the Wii U GamePad, the Wii Remote alone and held horizontally, or the Wii Remote held vertically and connected to a Nunchuk. Below is a list of all controls that trigger the actions in the game, each for every style of playing.
Note that the moves marked with the color blue are abilities that are only utilised underwater.
Wii U GamePad (primary controls)
Solo & Co-op modes
Co-op mode only
or – carry partner (for player 1), mount/dismount Donkey Kong (for player 2)
Wii U GamePad (secondary controls)
Solo & Co-op modes
Co-op mode only
or – carry partner (for player 1), mount/dismount Donkey Kong (for player 2)
Wii Remote (held horizontally)
Solo & Co-op modes
Co-op mode only
– carry partner (for player 1), mount/dismount Donkey Kong (for player 2)
Wii Remote (held vertically) and Nunchuk
Solo & Co-op modes
Co-op mode only
Each boss of this game is faced at the end of one of the six main worlds. The Kongs have to deliver nine hits to a boss enemy in order to defeat him; after every three hits, the boss will anger and morph into another phase, usually changing color to reflect this. As the final blow is struck, the player is given the chance to punch the boss and knock him out violently by repeatedly pressing the buttons shown on screen.
Below is a table containing all the minion sub-species enrolled in the Snowmad army, classified into categories. They are followed by a brief description on their behavior and combat. The first and final in-game level appearances of each enemy are also mentioned.
Domestic enemies and other obstacles
Along with the Snowmads, there are also many other foes, as well as obstacles, the Kongs have to fight or avoid throughout their adventure. Some enemy species, which otherwise act the same, change in appearance. Below is a table with all of the enemies and obstacles not related to the Snowmads.
Below is a table containing notable objects found in the game. A collectable is a gameplay element which can be collected and stored to a specific counter. Usually, when this counter reaches a certain number or magnitude, a special gameplay-related event will take place. A projectile represents an item which can be picked up and thrown at enemies or other elements. Vehicles refer to certain apparatuses that are used as mandatory ways of locomotion during select levels of the game.
Worlds and levels
The game has seven total islands, consisting of six "main" islands and one secret island (Secret Seclusion), which serve as the game's worlds. Though the course of each world, the Kongs can visit Funky's Fly 'n' Buy item shop, where Funky Kong sells life balloons and other balloons, portable partner barrels, Banana Juice, Heart Boosts, Crash Guards, and figurines of characters in the game that can be obtained through a capsule toy machine.
The table below lists all of the worlds and levels in the game, including their respective music theme and number of Puzzle Pieces. Since not every musical composition in the game has been given an official name, several of the ones shown are either described as arrangements from past Donkey Kong games, or merely marked as conjectural with a pointy line.
Note: tracks succeeded by an asterisk (*) in the following table are given their titles in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
On February 7, 2014, Nintendo launched the Banana Mania Contest for residents of Canada. In a video posted on YouTube and presented by Canadian actor Ajay Fry, they were challenged to guess how many bananas are in a solid block of ice for a chance to win a four day trip to the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, as well as a Wii U Deluxe Set system bundled with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, a Wii Remote controller and a Nunchuck.
One week before the game's lauch, on February 13, 2014, Nintendo celebrated Valentine's Day on their official Facebook page by posting various Donkey Kong-themed greeting cards. The photographs contain affectionate captions with word plays, and are accompanied by Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze artwork.
On the day of the game's release, Nintendo of America pretended to make a deal with Cranky Kong to let him lead their Twitter account and post tweets. Over the course of the day, the character would interact with fans by answering questions, as well as using image macros of himself, parodying similar Internet memes in an attempt to approach the youth culture. However, the marketing campaign was mostly met with negativity from the fans. The final tweet attributed to Cranky Kong is the game's launch trailer.
The game was primarily appreciated by critics for its appealing graphics, with Thomas Whitehead of Nintendo Life describing the series' upgrade to HD visuals as "impressive" and the game, a "visual achievement". He noted the game's engaging stages and remarked its fresh and eccentric environments, distinctly bringing out Autumn Heights and Bright Savannah as examples. He praised the game's personality and overall attention to detail, confered by character design and humorous animation, and found that the game's charm is partially attributed to David Wise's soundtrack, whom he described as an "expert ear".
Jose Otero from IGN distinguished the game from other two-dimensional platformers for its sense of scale and journey, accomplished by its brisk variety in level design. He liked the realistic sense of weight in the playable characters, commenting that it affects their movements. The game was once again praised for its attention to detail, with references to its tantalizing backgrounds and how the dynamic camera enhances the player's perspective. It was stated that the game's issue of being very difficult is softened by the large amount of extra lives that can be collected. Otero likewise remarked the unique boss fights and considered the punching segment at the end of each one as a "cool-payoff" and an homage to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Conversely, he criticized the unoptimized use of the GamePad.
Chris Carter of Destructoid complimented the HD visuals and regarded the game as one of the best-looking games in the Wii U library. He added that David Wise's contribution is a step-up from the soundtrack of Donkey Kong Country Returns. He also lauded the game's swimming mechanics and large amount of painstakingly-crafted levels
Danielle Riendeau of Polygon appreciated the game as a rewarding experience, in spite of its difficulty. In effect, he likened the reward to playing the game itself, recognizing the "imaginative layouts" and perfect balance between new enemies and energetic platforming. The co-op play was praised as a fun and chaotic experience.
Lastly, Mark Walton of GameSpot came in opposition to other critics with a differing opinion, as he preferred to stray from praising the game's visuals and instead emphasized on the level design. He implied that the game is a downgrade from its predecessors for staying too close to the formula without maintaining the same quality ("your journey gets very familiar, very quickly"). He commented on its lack of flow and inventiveness, which he claims to define the best 2D platformers. In particular, Walton was displeased by the game's difficulty, naming it a frustrating and cheap experience based on trial and error. However, he complimented the bosses and vehicle-riding sections, which in his view were unique and unusual and contrasted with the "monotonous" levels.
Differences in the Nintendo Switch version
On January 11, 2018, Nintendo announced that a port of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Nintendo Switch would be released on May 4, 2018. It features several additions and changes over the Wii U version:
The game's producers were Michael Kelbaugh from Retro Studios and Satoru Iwata, Kensuke Tanabe and Risa Tabata from Nintendo of Japan, all of whom were previoulsy involved in the production of Donkey Kong Country Returns. Shigeru Miyamoto's involvement as the game's supervisor was less significant than during the development of the previous game. The game's art direction was lead by Vince Joly like its predecessor, and Stephen Dupree was the lead game designer.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze notably marks the return of long-time Donkey Kong Country composer David Wise, whose last soundtrack for the series was for the Game Boy Advance version of Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! in 2005. Wise was specifically brought on board by Retro Studios president Michael Kelbaugh.
Pre-release and unused content
The HUD in E3 2013 footage of the game was slightly different from the final version. The health counter lacked the wooden plank icon behind the hearts. There was also no possibility to see whether the player can perform the Kong POW move, as the banana bar was missing.
A steamboat model was built to serve as the basis for all mechanical structures present in Lost Mangroves. The steamboat itself is not fully used in the game, but a few instances appear in Trunk Twister.
Many of the game's concept artworks give out ideas that would have been used in the game but were ultimately rejected. Most of them are available in the game itself as rewards for collecting Puzzle Pieces; for a full list of concept artworks, complete with indications on what concepts were or were not used, see here.
Below is a list of notable artworks with concepts that did not make the cut.
Schnautzel Falls Into Background
When a player finds a Schnautzel near a Tuff Fluff in Horn Top Hop they need to make sure they that it's slightly facing the background and keep rolling into it. If done correctly, the Schnautzel will be knocked out falling into the background instead of the foreground.
References to other games
References in later games
Names in other languages