What's the Story?
Donkey Kong's birthday has beenruined by an invasion of ice-spewing pirate penguins.The plot here is merely a flimsy device to justify another lengthy platforming adventure for Nintendo's great ape, but c'mon – ice-spewing pirate penguins are a brilliantly deranged concept worthy of note.
Initially, Tropical Freezeseems overly traditional – guide DK left to right, avoiding hazards, and collecting bananas. However, support characters change how you navigate levels. Diddy Kong's jetpack allows slow descents, Dixie offers an elevated jump, and Cranky can hop on a cane over otherwise lethal terrain. The result requires finesse and clever use of abilities over reflexes.
Highs and Lows
Each stage has a wealth of items secreted away in them, making them compulsively replayable. Even if there weren't gubbins to hunt down, there is an impetus to return just to revel in the exceptional music and lush visuals of the locations, rich with background details. Unfortunately, difficulty can spike suddenly, making for the occasional frustrating moment.
It's tempting to call Tropical Freeze a "return to form" but that would be inaccurate. It's more of a refinement of a refinement, with Retro Studios honing in with clinical precision on what makes the Donkey Kong Country series work best. There are no real surprises here, only tweaks to a formula, but the result is fantastically enjoyable.
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