While the rest of the console world busies itself with intensely 'cinematic' gaming on beastly next-gen machines, Nintendo seems more than happy to live in the past, constantly refining genres that have been around since the dawn of gaming. There’s nothing new about Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. And it doesn't matter.
It is defiantly old-fashioned, levels-and-lives platforming, but goodness is it lovely. In vibrant 720p and faultless 60FPS, Donkey and friends charge from left to right across six worlds, each offering an amazing variety of ideas, visual fireworks and a considerable challenge.
If Satan himself made video game bosses, they’d be in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. These astonishing difficulty spikes push you to the absolute limits of your platforming skill and laugh in your face as you fail repeatedly. They’re the stuff of nightmares; gorgeous, chunky baddies that lull you into a false sense of security early on then gleefully punish you down the stretch as they reach their final forms.
The rest of the game is no picnic, either, no matter how many bananas are on show. Retro appears to have taken great pride in crafting a platformer of savage trickiness; one masquerading as a kids’ game but with the cruel, steady heart of a video game veteran. From as early as the third level, it’s clear this is no easy ride; Tropical Freeze is constantly demanding and often quite vicious.
The rewards, though, are bountiful. The variety on show is exceptional; one second you're throwing water balloons at burning rope bridges, the next you’re being hounded underwater by a kraken in a mad dash to the surface. The weight of Donkey Kong (accompanied by Diddy, Dixie and Cranky now, who appear in power-up barrels or as a co-op partner) means the pace of the jumping is more deliberate than Mario and less forgiving than Rayman, but this is still a game of flawless control and deliberate design.
Quite simply, you get what you came for.
Played for 8 hours.