Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: Low-hanging fruit

/ Updated: February 20, 2014 10:59 AM PST

Retro Studios

The Wii U faces plenty of worrisome issues these days and a lack of compelling exclusive software is front and center. The console has yet to find its "killer app" -- a game that can move hardware -- despite seeing scattered success with titles like Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is another solid title, but naming it the platform's savior is an impossible declaration.

There's a lot to like in Tropical Freeze, as it marks the first time we've ever seen Donkey Kong in HD. The game is absolutely gorgeous and is packed with complex level design and more hidden items than you'll likely be able to handle. It's nearly as much fun to gawk at its visuals as it is to actually play it.

Retro Studios

I had a handful of friends at my apartment over the weekend and the Wii U gamepad instantly became the focus of attention as far as my guests were concerned. It really resonates with a group of 20- and 30-somethings, all of whom instantly remembered how to play thanks to the Super Nintendo versions of the game.

Tropical Freeze carries the flame of that love letter to gamers familiar with those classic titles, but almost all of my friends were shocked at just how difficult the game is -- even in the earliest levels.

Nevertheless, the game can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages, no matter how much previous experience with Donkey Kong they may have. It's the perfect piece of entertainment for quick drop-in-and-out sessions, which meshes nicely with gamers enduring a hectic schedule.

It may not be a system seller, but those who already own a Wii U can rest assured they have another game to enjoy for now.

Retro Studios

Check out sister site GameSpot's full review of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Senior Editor Scott Stein took another look at the game:
The Wii U needs games. That's the bottom line. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a new game. It's a very, very good game. And if you love Nintendo's Donkey Kong series, it's a perfect sequel to the Wii and 3DS version, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Is that enough? Sure. I'd gladly take a game like this Donkey Kong once a month on the Wii U. It's a side-scrolling platform game with 3D elements, but nothing as revolutionary as Super Mario 3D World. Which, really, in itself, wasn't all that revolutionary. But, considering a platform game like Rayman Legends was one of the best console games of last year, Donkey Kong doesn't actually feel out of touch at all with the rest of the gaming world. In fact, maybe it's a reaffirmation of what Nintendo does best: kid-friendly gaming.

I played Tropical Freeze with my 5-year-old, and we had a blast with it. A lot of the game is too challenging for him, but there's some opportunity for teamwork. The jungle-meets-arctic-invaders art design has animation quality as top-notch as any big-budget film, and there are so many hidden challenges that, a bit like with Mario, there will be reasons to play again and again.

The Nintendo 3DS developed a following by making great franchise updates, repeating, and filling the system with AAA games. The Wii U may be trying for the same path. Maybe this Donkey Kong game is the beginning of that trend. As of this moment, it's easily one of the Wii U's five best games...and that just shows how many more great games the Wii U needs.

Retro Studios

CNET verdict: Wii U owners survive another day

It may not be revolutionary, but Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze packs in enough top-notch platforming action to keep Wii U owners content (for now).

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Quick Specifications See All

  • ESRB Everyone
  • Subcategory Action
  • Developer Retro Studios
  • Number of players 1-2 Players