Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) (Wii U) Preview

By Az Elias 28.06.2013

Review for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) on Wii U

It isn't the project everyone was expecting Retro Studios to be working on behind closed doors, but a sequel to the Wii's Donkey Kong Country Returns is most definitely what the team's first Wii U title is going to be. Although there may have been a fair amount of initial disappointment at this news, the fact remains that the DKC revival was a pretty great one, only let down by a few issues. Hoping to go one better with this new game, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was available to play at Nintendo's post-E3 event in London, which Cubed3 got some hands-on time with, and can now share our first impressions.

Let's get the disappointment out of the way to begin with. Dixie Kong was not playable in the demo Nintendo provided, which is, quite frankly, bizarre, given that the ponytailed Kong was what got a lot of fans of the original SNES Donkey Kong Country trilogy so excited for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze after its unveiling. Not since DKC3 has Dixie starred in a completely fresh platformer, so of course most people would expect Nintendo to want to show off the return of her in the first playable demo of this Wii U title. What a let-down it was to finally get the opportunity to try out Tropical Freeze, only to learn she wasn't even there to play as. Without her to mix up the gameplay a little bit, it felt just like playing Donkey Kong Country Returns. Although, as those that have played the Wii title are fully aware, Retro's take was a terrific 2D platformer that we should be grateful has now produced a sequel.

Cubed3 was able to jump into four different types of levels, and although we did not get to try out the game using only the GamePad, which disposes of the annoying motion controls that were forced in the previous title, just simply knowing that this traditional control method exists is reassuring for everybody. Instead, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination was used to tackle two levels in co-op mode to begin with.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) on Wii U

The first level started off with DK and Diddy busting out of a plane that had crashed into a beach-like area (what they were doing in a plane in the first place should hopefully be explained in the final game!), and we're then straight into the action, with the gameplay mechanics used in Donkey Kong Country Returns being almost identical in this one. That means DK is seen as the leader of the pairing, and has Diddy riding on his back, where he can help the big ape jump longer distances using his little jet pack. Of course, in co-op mode, Diddy is free to run around and help DK out in more ways than one by taking out his own enemies and quickly grabbing items in tandem with DK to beat mini-games faster. With a press of the B button under the Wii Remote by Player 2, Diddy can hop onto DK's back to continue hitching a ride and help make jumps easier for the DK player.

This first stage on show was notable for being a very lengthy one, which is hopefully an indication of the time it will take to beat many of the levels in the final game, and it was very reassuring to see different areas transition into one another throughout the stage. The beach stage had the Kongs platforming through a small mechanical building at one point, and it was possible to see so far into the background that had a great attention to detail. 3D graphics in 2D side-scrollers rub a few people the wrong way sometimes, but Tropical Freeze looks absolutely gorgeous. For sure, there will be many collectibles, as the KONG letters and jigsaw pieces make a return in every level, so snuffing out every item and scouring the stages for secrets is guaranteed, just as with all past DKC games. Smashing through floors, throwing enemies into walls and switches, and making full use of Diddy's jet pack will become very familiar.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) on Wii U

It's worth pointing out that some traditional 'DK' barrels, which have always housed a sidekick Kong, appear in-game with the initials 'DD' on them, signifying that Diddy Kong is inside. Apparently, there will also be 'DX' barrels that hold Dixie Kong. We can only speculate for now, but perhaps there will be the option to switch between which buddy DK has out during gameplay, as maybe Dixie will only be able to help DK reach places that Diddy cannot.

Underwater sections appeared in the stage, which now throws an oxygen bar into the mix, so swimming into air bubbles to replenish the meter is going to be a requirement, but it is so pleasing to know that water levels are making a return to the series after being abandoned in DKCR. Likewise, snow-themed stages will make a comeback, although there weren't any to try out in this demo.

After smashing the end of level barrel, it was then on to a boss battle featuring a walrus. A short cut-scene granted us a close up of DK's fabulous fluffy fur effect, emphasising the new graphical effects Retro has added, and it was then time to beat up on the menace. Just as with the first stage, this boss battle lasted for quite some time, requiring lots of jumps on its back to defeat it. Its attack patterns changed a lot, so this leaves a promising prospect for the other bosses in the game.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) on Wii U

No DKC game is complete without a mine cart level, and it was great to get to test one out here in single-player, too. One of the main differences to that of any previous mine cart stages was how the camera angle changed a lot more so it wasn't simply a 2D affair, and a short cut-scene even occurred at one point, where DK and Diddy fell down a pit hole, only to land back in their cart and continue on the tracks. It was great to see some attempts to add some new ideas to keep players engaged. Lots of different rail tracks and routes to take to reach collectibles and bonus areas were prominent, though it was very easy to miss the sections which led to rewards, so it looks like some replaying of these levels to embed them into players' memories will be in order!

The final stage of the demo was a barrel canyon, and was a fantastic showcase for the dynamic stages that Retro is heavily focusing on in Tropical Freeze. The pinpoint accurate timing of moving barrels in past DKC games made for some rather intense and difficult levels, but instead of simply going left to right, the cannons in the Wii U game had us shooting at all sorts of angles - into the background and around obstacles. It seems like a simple concept on paper, but the constant camera changes really opened up the stage and gave the impression of levels being hugely expansive.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Hands-On) on Wii U

Final Thoughts

So Dixie Kong was not playable in this demo, and although this left a very sour taste, the hands-on time we got with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has indicated that Retro Studios is absolutely the perfect match to continue to tackle the 2D platformer series. The issues from Donkey Kong Country Returns look like they will all be fixed in this title - motion controls are now optional, underwater and snow themed levels are back and Dixie Kong will be there. The previously slightly lacklustre soundtrack should also be something to look forward to now that David Wise is composing this one. The loading times prior to starting each level were notably very long, which is bound to be a bit of a bother, so hopefully this will be touched up in the final version. There is still one more playable Kong yet to be revealed, as well, so there's no doubt that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is going to be packed to the brim with content, and all signs are pointing to it being even better than its predecessor.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


I actually did fully complete DKCR with the Wiimote held sideways and very rarely had any deaths because of motion-controlled rolls. I must be crazy, I suppose.

I am sure it will be high quality - but I'd still rather have a proper 3d adventure DK64 style.
And yes, that includes having a new DK rap Smilie <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
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SirLink said:
I actually did fully complete DKCR with the Wiimote held sideways and very rarely had any deaths because of motion-controlled rolls. I must be crazy, I suppose.
Same here (except having fully completed the game - still working on that).

I love using the Wii Remote sideways. It's the best for platformers and I love the use of motion for certain actions (like rolling) - makes things easy to control.


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