Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the second game in the Donkey Kong Country franchise developed by Retro Studios and the first made for the Wii U (this time with assistance from Monster Games, who ported the previous title to the Nintendo 3DS). The game also marks the return of David Wise, the composer of the original SNES trilogy, providing an original soundtrack for the game. The game was released in Japan on February 13, 2014 and in North America and Europe on February 21. Retro Studio's trademark 60 frames per second gameplay also makes a return with the added benefit of a native 720p resolution this time.
Tropical Freeze includes more more dynamic, three-dimensional levels than those that appeared in Donkey Kong Country Returns and also brings back underwater stages (which haven't been seen since Donkey Kong Country 3). Levels now often feature multiple gameplay styles such as platforming mixed with underwater segments or rocket/mine cart segments instead of being limited to levels solely dedicated to one gameplay type. Players can choose to play as Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and for the first time in the series, Cranky Kong. Like the previous title, Tropical Freeze supports a local two-player mode with player one taking the role of Donkey and player two getting the chance to chose between the three support characters.
All support characters have unique abilities with Diddy again bringing his trusty jetpack that lets him float a short distance in the air, just like in the previous title. On top of that, the jetpack provides a speed boost when using it underwater, making Diddy the fastest swimmer. Diddy retains his signature cartwheel animation when "rolling" forward and carries objects on front of him. His support weapon is again the peanut gun which, like all the other characters' support weapons, will stun enemies.
While Dixie Kong makes use of her pony tail as she did in her appearances in DKC 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and DKC 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, this time it allows her to execute a quasi double-jump by twirling her hair mid-jump to briefly gain extra height. Dixie's pony tail also comes in handy when swimming against strong currents underwater since she can use it like a rotor to propel herself forward slowly but steadily. In this game, Dixie no longer carries objects like barrels with her pony tail above her head but instead just uses her hands and carries it in front of her. Her "rolling" animation is her classic pirouette with the hair spin. Dixie's support weapon is the bubble gum popgun.
Cranky Kong does not have an ability that grants him extended air time, however he uses his can to bounce around which lets him jump higher. This also enables him to jump on spikes or enemies that would otherwise harm him. Combining his cane bounce with a roll lets him move extremely fast while making it very tough to navigate safely through levels. In underwater segments, he can use his cane as a melee weapon to damage objects or enemies that are in the way. Cranky is now the character carrying objects above his head since he needs one hand to hold his cane. His support weapon comes in the form of dentures the throws around.
Tropical Freeze brings back another mechanic from the past, this time being from producer Kensuke Tanabe's very first game: Super Mario Bros. 2. Donkey Kong & company are are now able to pluck things from the ground to reveal items, much like Mario and his fellow adventurers did, or alter the environment to open new or previously blocked paths.
Additional, climbing and swinging from vines, grabbing onto grass hanging on ceilings and walls and destroying certain objects in the environment by pounding on the ground is often required of the Kongs. Throwing objects or enemies now is a bigger part of the game, too with secrets and collectibles often being hidden by a barrier that can be broken by throwing heavy objects at it. The blowing mechanic from the previous game does not make a return in Tropical Freeze.
A brand new ability for the partner characters to use with Donkey Kong is the Kong-Pow move. Collecting 100 bananas will fill a gauge next to the heart meter that can then be activated by a button combination. Depending on who Donkey Kong is currently partnering with, the results will change. Executing a Kong-Pow clears the screen of all visible enemies and turns them into items. With Diddy, they turn into 1-Up balloons, with Dixie, they turn into golden hearts that grant one extra hit for each one the player(s) manage to collect (with a maximum of four extra hits possible) and Cranky Kong cause them to turn into banana coins.
Funky Kong also makes his return to the series, but this time, with Cranky now part of the adventuring crew, he will be taking care of the item shop that debuted in the previous game.
Tropical Freeze also features online leaderboards that allow sharing of level replays in Time Attack Mode, secret exits to secret levels, Hard Mode and the return of Rambi the Rhino as the only animal buddy in the game. Notably, the game lacks any Wii U specific features and in fact even turns the GamePad screen off entirely when playing on the TV. Aside from regular Miiverse Community support on a system level, the only special Wii U feature in the game is Off-TV Play.
Supported controllers are: Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote (held sideways), Wii Remote + Nunchuk.
Similar to Mirror Mode in Donkey Kong Country Returns, Hard Mode in Tropical Freeze limits players to one heart, meaning one-hit deaths, no buddy characters, no support items from Funky's shop and presents blue K.O.N.G. letters to collect. Additionally, Hard Mode lets solo players choose any of the four characters to play any given level with from the world map, in contrast to the normal mode in which player one is automatically assigned Donkey Kong and only the second player can choose between the three support buddies. Hard Mode does not feature mirrored levels like in DKC Returns but instead removes all checkpoints from levels making it significantly harder to reach the end.
Hard Mode is unlocked by finishing all levels in all worlds. Beating every level in Hard Mode grants players 200% game completion on their save file.
World Map & Levels
Since Tropical Freeze is all about DK and his friends being banished from Donkey Kong Island by the Snowmads and thus being forced to make their way back, players will travel across several unique worlds before they reach their frozen home.
The main game features six distinct islands, each with its own theme ranging from tropical jungle, a temperate climate mountain region, savannas and canyons, giant fruit jungles, beaches, flooded ruins, etc. The sixth world is Donkey Kong Island and features levels set in the main areas from Donkey Kong Country Returns. These levels reference key locations from the previous game but are completely new and significantly altered by the snow and ice brought on by the Snowmads.
Each world features two secret levels that have to be unlocked by finding secret exits in one or two of the regular levels. Just like in DKC Returns, especially challenging K-levels are unlocked by finding all the K.O.N.G. letters in each level of any given world, including the secret levels. These K-levels do not have checkpoints and often don't even provide buddy barrels.
Levels in Tropical Freeze are very long compared to most platformers and are designed around many scripted events that often significantly alter the level and affect the intensity to keep players engaged and on their feet. Hidden inside these levels are puzzle pieces and bonus rooms that offer a short break from the often tense action.
Completing all levels (including the K-levels) in the regular six worlds will unlock a special bonus world featuring a set of challenging levels that also lack any checkpoints while introducing several new hazards.
- The fourth playable character, Cranky Kong, was originally teased at E3 2013 by Kensuke Tanabe and was to remain a mystery until his official reveal at the Spike VGX Awards 2013 by Reggie Fils-Aime. However, Amazon Italy unintentionally leaked the character's identity by posting the final European box art of the game early which clearly features Cranky Kong holding onto Donkey Kong's leg just days before the planned reveal at the Spike VGX show.
- In Donkey Kong's idle animation, he pulls out a blue 3DS XL and plays one of four possible Nintendo 3DS games which can be determined by the music coming from the device: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 or Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
- In level 1-B Busted Bayou, a model of Samus Aran's Gunship can be seen in the background.