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Seven Ways I Died In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Posted on Thursday, January 23 @ 13:45:00 Eastern by

Donkey Kong and company might seem like friendly apes on a banana adventure, but playing through the game’s first four worlds last week left me impressed with the varying levels of challenge you’ll find in the full experience. Not unlike Super Mario 3D World or the New Super Mario Bros. series, Tropical Freeze tracks all the bonus areas you find, all the bananas you collect, and does that while throwing tons of perfectly placed enemies your way.

I was in a bit of a rush. I wanted to get through everything Nintendo made available at the preview event. I died a handful of times just for rushing through carelessly, but for the most part players will find a steady progression of death by dastard design. I refrained from comparing Donkey Kong to Dark Souls, as much as I may have wanted to. Clearing a particularly challenging sequence did feel satisfying in the way relentless challenge pays off in victorious reward, but "Donk Souls" doesn’t roll off the tongue.

What’s more, you might spend four hours getting to the first “level” in Dark Souls, whereas the big banana of adversity and triumph didn’t really appear until World 2’s owl boss, some dozen plus “levels” into Tropical Freeze. Reading my notes from the preview event, I noticed seven different ways I died in my chest-pounding, vine-swinging campaign.


Set on fire.

One particular Savannah level actually shrugs away the title’s cold shoulder and sets the jungle around DK and friends on fire. Each level in the world progresses up to this moment and then players are forced to wrestle with platforms that slowly crumble to ash as you walk on them. There is a bunch of fire-breathing baddies in these levels and more often than not I’d end up wasting two or three lives to the same enemy in a row.

The patterns are set up for players of all speeds, but finding a middle ground so I could explore, stay safe, and still move ahead at a moderate pace got really difficult. This was another level that screenshots simply won’t do justice. Tons of movement, combined with bright, sharp coloring make the game’s environments quite the sight. With or without 1080p, Nintendo’s first steps in HD game design prove they could have hung with Microsoft and Sony back in 2006.

Fell in a bottomless pit.

This is a classic, obviously, but as is true with all Donkey Kong Country games, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith in order to find a bonus room or a hidden stash of bananas. More often than not I fell to my death, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from following visual clues wherever they may take you. Tropical Freeze is riddled with “well, if I had jumped there I would have grabbed that” moments.

Wii U owners have had a steady diet of platform games since launch, so they should be well trained to spot the goodies hiding in DK’s jungle.

Crushed in a mine-cart crash.

Pretty obvious, right? From what I played it seems like there’s at least one mine-cart level in every world, in addition to Rocket Barrel levels, and other fun twists to DKC gameplay. If this were a list of eight ways I died in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Rocket Barrel explosion would have made it.

Split by a buzzsaw.

Mine-cart levels are cool and all, but my favorite was one where DK, Diddy, and I were thrown from a mine-cart and into a sawmill. DK got his own version of splash mountain, but maybe with a closer trim of his newly high-definition jungle fuzz. Wow, that sounded pretty dirty.

DK and whichever partner he’s roped into have to dodge massive, moving blades in the sawmill, while watching what water you have available to ride on closely. When you play this level yourself, you’ll see how Retro have made massive set pieces into difficult and often deadly platforming sequences. The log ride itself is just like the mine cart with two hit points (whereas DK and a partner have four hit points between them) and you can also buy items for it like you would the mine cart or the rocket barrel. I made it through, but losing five or six lives at the same point of DK’s log ride was frustrating.

Stabbed by a feather.

Seriously. I hated that owl boss… at least until I beat him. After that I kind of loved him. The stage actually proceeds upwards vertically, meaning you have a few different methods of beating him quickly. If you play aggressively enough, you can toss tons of his own baddies at him, not unlike the North American version of Super Mario Bros. 2. Donkey Kong and his cooperative partners can jump on an enemy's head and then pick that enemy up either to throw at another minion or at a world boss like our owl "friend."

It took me long enough to memorize this guy’s pattern, but once I did things proceeded faster and faster through to third and final round. Using every trick in DK’s arsenal will make the difference between the monkey boys and the monkey men. Or women. Dixie is yet another playable female character in Nintendo’s growing Wii U library. Her unique jump-extending ponytail comes in handy for this particular boss too, so try bringing her with you if you’re playing single-player.

Badly timed roll-jump.

Yeah, I just really blew this one. I figured I could clear a huge gap using the patented roll-jump fling maneuver. I got it on the second try though.

Drowned.

Donkey Kong needs oxygen underwater. He can’t just swim forever, so keeping your movement tight and well-planned means avoiding enemies, attacking others, and hitting bubbles as you go. This is especially true in a particular boss fight, but we’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Even when I sat down with a Nintendo developer in co-operative play, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze got the best of us. Death waits for no monkey and Retro have created one satisfying platformer. It’d be hard to put the controller down, but that just may be what you need to do to continue forward. For our Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D review, I had the benefit of carrying my 3DS around with me during a week of work travel.

I could pick it up and put it down as needed and more often than not, a fresh set of thumbs were able to clear a seemingly  impossible task only hours later. With Tropical Freeze looking good on a big-screen TV, you might want to hog the living room set, but don’t be afraid to take a break and watch TV and then pick up the GamePad controller for off-TV play as needed.


Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be out exclusively on Wii U February 21st. We’ll have more and a full review nearer to launch.

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