by Brian Robbins

Nintendo has quite the selection of marquee characters from Mario, Link, Yoshi, and Samus but most people forget about poor Donkey Kong. Even Luigi had his own year in 2013! It’s a shame because the Donkey Kong franchise has had some of the best Nintendo titles in the past 20 years. With Nintendo’s new title in the DK Country series, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, we have one of the best titles for the Wii U to date.

When the action first hits, Donkey Kong and his other gorilla family members are celebrating the big guy’s birthday. Like any good action game, nothing goes according to plan. Poor Donkey Kong’s birthday festivities are ruined by the Snowmads who make the tropical island freeze over. Not exactly thrilling by any sort of the imagination, but the reactions of the Kong family are priceless.

Donkey Kong and his family try to reclaim their home island and fix the icy escalation and bring their tropical paradise back to normal. Throughout the game, Donkey Kong travels to all the areas of the world and from my experience all the worlds are refreshing and unique from one another. You might be playing on an island on one stage then hop to a desert in another. The classic level variety in Mario games is present in ‘Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze”. The game makes the player want to see the next adventure.

While you’re trying to bumble and thrash you way through the story, you’ll notice how simple but exceedingly challenging this game really is. Just like the Mario franchise, Donkey Kong has a limited number of moves available to him. You’re allowed to jump on enemies like the famous plumber and partake in thrilling platforming challenges, there’s a roll-attack that will finish off enemies, and the lovely brute is surprisingly nimble once he climbs on branches and vines. They all sound simple but the game provides a brutal way of forcing you to master Donkey Kong’s abilities.

The huge difficulty spike could really dampen skilled platformer player’s spirits along with younger gamers. The game forces you to have pin-point accuracy no matter what you’re doing. Whether it’s jumping on a baddies head to extinguish him or timing your vine swings perfectly to avoid an obstacle. The game never lets up, but when you do manage to complete the task that’s been giving yourself trouble, there’s hardly a more rewarding experience in gaming. It’s not Dark Souls II level of frustration but its close.

Along with the difficult jumping, swinging and rolling gameplay of Donkey Kong, you’ll have opportunities to call in his family members. Just like the SNES classic Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and even the wise Cranky Kong will join the adventure. Diddy Kong will assist your vertical hang time with his jetpack, Dixie will allow you to stay in the air longer with her pigtails. My personal favorite is Cranky Kong, who will allow you to bounce higher and longer with his Ducktales style cane maneuvers. They will only assist Donkey Kong during certain portions of the game and you’ll have to free them from their barrels, but the opportunities are frequent.

You’ll need your allies for the game’s outstanding boss fights too. Just like any classic Nintendo first party game, you’ll have multiple stages of the encounter. For example, one that gave me tremendous trouble was the gigantic owl, who would send razor sharp feathers down on Donkey Kong and his family. There was just so much going on during the fight that every button press was a matter of life and death. I haven’t had this much trouble (or fun) in a game in quite some time. The sense of accomplishment was better than any achievement or trophy unlock from other systems.

One aspect of this game that didn’t quite shine as well as other Nintendo platformers was the co-op. My friends and I just didn’t see eye to eye when it came to jumping, fighting or simple puzzle solving. When we were in a boss encounter, it was more successful to just shut off one of the controllers and let one person handle it. There’s just too much action on-screen and the game simply plays better with one person. Still though, the multiplayer option is always there in case you have a curious on-looker who wants to see what the fuss is about.

Games from this generation are too easy, it’s great to see a game like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze actually challenge players. Even for younger gamers, once they beat a portion by themselves, there won’t be a greater reward. Though, it would’ve been nice to have actual unlockable characters to work for. The Wii U is in desperate need of great games and with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze it’s found one. This is one of those most own games for any type of gamer, and if you can resist breaking the controller you’re in for one rewarding experience.

4.5-star-turtle