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Game Review

If you haven't played a Donkey Kong game in a long while—well, let's say a very long while—you may still think of the titular ape as a villain. I mean, way back in the early '80s he was the bad guy chucking barrels at a hopping, jumping and construction site-climbing hero named Mario, after all.

But since the mid-1990s Donkey Kong and his apey clan have been the good guys in their own series of platforming adventures. Of course, this big, chest-thumping dude still knows a thing or two about chucking bombs and barrels.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze first landed on the Wii-U a little more than four years ago. But it's just been dusted off and upgraded for platforming fans with a Nintendo Switch. So let's dive in.

Kong on Ice

The action here swims and bops around on a group of islands out in a tropical paradise. Donkey Kong and his helpful sidekicks—Diddy Kong; Dixie Kong; and a grumpy, cane-waving Cranky Kong—are all just about to launch into Donkey's big birthday blast when a snowflake and a cold breeze blow through a grass hut window. It seems a group of icy penguins and their walrusy leader, Snowmad, are sailing in to give the Kongs a shivery heave-ho.

With the honk of a big horn, these baddies let loose a frosty dragon that turns the Kong's island into an ice rink and shoots the quartet of ape heroes over to another isle many miles away. They'll have to platform their way through threats on five islands and battle potent big bosses to make their way back home.

Diddy, Funky and Bonky Stuff

That trek involves lots of hopping, swinging, swimming and, of course, bopping everything from dodo birds to man-eating plants to giant octopi. The abilities of the secondary Kongs make a big difference, too. They'll climb up on DK's back and can be traded out to help with various challenges.

Diddy has a rocket pack of sorts that can help out when DK needs to hover over small traps and pits. Dixie's helicopter-spinning blonde hair can lift things up to higher platforms and make adjustments during mistimed jumps. Finally, Cranky and his pogo stick-like cane can bounce through irritating spikey dangers with aplomb.

Choosing the right sidekick can help with specific big bosses, too. Whether it's battling a giant sliding seal, an enormous pufferfish, or a trio of mystic bomb-dropping orangutans, the right kind of assistance can make a tough leap or underwater air bubble grab just a bit more manageable.

The big add-on for the Nintendo Switch version of this game is something called Funky Mode. There's a surfer ape named Funky Kong who joins the happy cast of characters. And he comes sporting his own cool flip-flops-and-board-shorts fashions and packing a number of different abilities to amp up the platforming play just a bit. Funky can double jump, for instance. He can swim under the waves indefinitely without the need of a replenishing air bubble. And he's got a sizable health boost. Oh, and sometimes most importantly, Funky can tap-dance his way across spikey obstacles with the greatest of ease.

This fresh and funky guy doesn't get any extra climb-on-my-back help from the other Kongs, but that's OK. In a way, ol' Funky sorta feels like the equivalent of switching over to easy mode. And that's OK, too. 'Cause there are times when you'll feel the pressure in that tough-play area.

Tough to Bite Off, But Goes Down Easy

As with other Nintendo platformers of this stripe, the difficulty level slowly continues to rise as you jump from level to level. Things can get to feeling pretty tough at times. Actually, gameplay can start feel nigh unto impossible at certain points. There's always a "correct" or "best" way to get past a boss or a really tough level, but sometimes it takes a lot of banana peel-slip failing and retrying before you can nail just the right timing.

That, quite frankly, is the biggest issue that younger button-crunchers will be facing here. There's an item shop where they can pick up extra boosts and aids, but it's still no easy jaunt. And parents will potentially be called upon to step up to the barrel-tossing plate.

That said, this is still a fun game with tons of romping play for kids of all ages. There are puzzle pieces to gather, collectables to find and secret rooms aplenty to reveal. The tykes'll likely eat it all up with glee, like a frozen chocolate banana on a stick.

Positive Elements

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Record Label


Wii U, Nintendo Switch




May 4, 2018

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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