Monday, April 12, 2021

Now Presenting -- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

I stole my son's Nintendo Switch and re-downloaded a game that he had purchased but uninstalled, and that game is none other than Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

What is this high resolution world of Donkey Kong?

I mean, I was even impressed over the logo splash screen here! After playing the original Donkey Kong Country the other day, this was pretty mind-blowing how crystal clear and smooth the characters and animations were.  Not to mention that the front of the game had a simply amazing cut-scene animation to really set the story and stage.

Beware the mighty bellows of the Viking penguins!

The Viking penguins approached the happy home of Donkey Kong's Island, led by a terrifying shadowy Viking over-lord. With a mighty blow of their Viking horn, a frosty wind blew across the ocean causing fierce ice to immediately form in their path and punting poor Donkey Kong and friends miles into the air like they were team rocket blasting off again. So high quality. So high budget. I loved it.

The first level of the game alone showed just how much evolution has happened with platformers over the past 20 years. Immersive things like music shifts when you swim underwater . . . heck, just having an underwater portion of a platformer in the same level . . . heck, having an insane 3D barrel shooting ride in the same level. I mean, this game really puts its best foot forward (as it should) right away.

It seems simple, but camera movement coupled with Barrel shooting adds so much depth

The same familiar mechanics are there from the original DK Country game, namely roll attack and jump attack, but now they've also added ground pounding, rope pulling, vine hanging, ducking, and double jumping as standard features. There are a lot more buttons to keep track of, and because of this, they have a super intuitive background character that pops out exactly when you need him.  What I mean by that is there's a little pig that sticks his head out of the background and says what buttons you should press to overcome this obstacle in front of you, and then it seamlessly fades back into the background. Unobtrusive tutorial moments like that (especially at the start of the game) are absolute genius. They also reused the pig character as the NPC that grants you a mid-level waypoint for when you need to restart.

Yesterday when I played this game, I ended up on level 2-3, and that was the spot where I first ran out of lives. I was actually excited to see if they were going to punt me all the way back to level 2-1 to make me start over like they used to do in the old Donkey Kong Country, thankfully no -- this is yet another huge difference between old school torture and new school thinking. Nobody likes feeling like they lost progress. Well done, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. Well done.

There was also an old familiar minecart level during the first set of levels that hailed back to the original Donkey Kong.  This thing was amazing. You were going in loops as giant obstacles fell down at you. There were cut-scenes mid-level! The ground was crumbling from out underneath you, and the excitement was 100 percent there.

The first boss fight was also super impressive. In the original Donkey Kong Country, you fought against a giant badger and really all you needed to do was bonk him on the head five times and you were done.  This boss fight had a huge cut scene before it and felt more like a boss fight from Cuphead than a simple Donkey Kong Country fight. Basically you were stuck in a half-pipe as a Viking seal swooped down on you . . . yes, you'd bonk him on the head, but then he'd sit off to the side and throw fish at you or command his viking penguin hoard to dive bomb you. After about 15 hits and a variety of side attacks, you'd finally get to punch his lights out and grab your prize.

All in all, I have to say (and it must be obvious since I've been gushing here), Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a really solid game. I wish I would have played it seven years ago when it was originally released on the Wii U. 

I'll be playing through the game a bit more and reporting my progress here as I can. Again, thank you to Angela ShadowGarden for the awesome game suggestion.

Happy Dueling! 

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