Tag Archive: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze


I’m a little obsessed with our Game of the Year lists. I keep track of every game that comes out in a top-secret master document and move games up and down with each new release, patiently waiting for that final day in December when me and the EGM crew finally hash things out. 2014 was a little easier on me, though, as many of my top games have been there since the first half of the year. Much like our managing editor, Andrew Fitch, big budget disappointments marred much of the second half for me, but a few—including my eventual Game of the Year—would serve as bright spots in what has been a rather bleak winter. Now, with the promise of an eventful 2015 on the horizon, I am ready to pass my final judgment on the year that was. Here are my top picks of 2014!

Ray’s Top Five Games for 2014

#05: Bayonetta 2

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

If you had told me back in January that Bayonetta 2 would be in my top five at the end of the year, I’d have said you were insane. Sure, I enjoyed the first game (not nearly as much as our executive editor, Eric L. Patterson), but I saw some inherent flaws that, to me, kept it from being something beyond a niche, button-mashing, hack-n-slash game. Bayonetta 2, though, successfully built on that first game’s foundation, tweaked the combat, and added the Umbran Climax, giving me a larger sense of control in battle. I went from button mashing to carefully crafting crushing combos. Throw in one of the more charming protagonists out there and a story that finds an interesting way to tie into the first game, and I can’t help but admit that Bayonetta 2 made a believer out of me.

#04: Super Time Force

Publisher: Capybara Games
Developer: Capybara Games
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Ray’s Take

I might be hanging out with associate editor Josh Harmon too much, because looking at my Top 25 voting, I voted for more indies than ever before. One of them, though, legitimately blew me away. I love time travel, so Super Time Force’s ability to allow you to relive sections of gameplay over and over again as a near-endless army of clones of yourself teamed up to take on harder and harder threats was the kind of zany fun I’d been missing for a long time when this game came out. Admittedly, the off-the-wall humor might not be for everyone, but there was so much more strategy involved than you’d expect from an old-school side-scrolling shooter, and I loved every rewound second of it.

#03: South Park: The Stick of Truth

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment/South Park Digital Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Ray’s Take

For a time, many were worried this game would never actually get released. But after years of delays and a change in publisher, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the purest form of the TV show we can get in a videogame. Though it paid more homage to classic elements from the show than carving its own path into the South Park mythos, The Stick of Truth’s only real fault was how short it was for an RPG. The story had me laughing constantly, and the old-school turn-based RPG combat was a welcome throwback that worked perfectly for what show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker wanted to portray here: the boys of South Park playing a game that quickly spirals out of control and pulls in forces far larger than a LARPing session should ever entail.

#02: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

For much of the year, this was my game to beat—and with great reason. Not only is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a beautiful game graphically, but I’ll say it’s the best platformer Nintendo’s put out in quite some time. The level design was absolutely superb, and it mixed just enough difficulty and replayability into each area so that I never really got tired no matter how many times I tackled the game’s dozens of stages. The addition of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong as playable characters also opened up so many exploration opportunities that led to secret levels and items—and added some pleasant variety between the Kongs. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze makes me wish Retro would take a crack at more classic Nintendo series after they first jump-started Metroid back on the GameCube, and now they’ve done the same with Donkey Kong Country.

#01: Dragon Age Inquisition

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Platforms: Ps4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

When it comes to my fantasy, I’ve always been more of a “sci-fi” and not so much as a “high” kind of guy. But ever since an old co-worker turned me onto Dragon Age back in 2009, I’ve been hooked to this series. With decisions from the first two games coming to a head here, and with a massive world to explore, I couldn’t help but get sucked into this experience and easily clocked over 100 hours on my first playthrough. Considering our jobs here at EGM, and the fact we always have to move onto the next game, the fact I stuck with Inquisition for that long shows how immersive and addictive it is—hours would fly be in the blink of an eye. And I loved every minute of it. For the first time in a long time, I was grinding not for achievements, but just to squeeze every last line of dialogue from a cast of characters that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. And in terms of gameplay, whether it was playing the political game of Orlesian high society or the huge cheer that escaped my lips when I slayed my first gorgeous new-gen dragon, I couldn’t get enough of being the Inquisitor, and I happily choose Dragon Age: Inquisition as my personal game of the year.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2014

The 4th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game
(Brought to you by Popsicle)
The Banner Saga
I played a lot of great-looking games this year, including some that I already mentioned in my list above. But just eking them all out was Stoic’s The Banner Saga. This strategy title channeled the animation style of Don Bluth, and the character design and colors were a feast for the eyes. It’s more than deserving of this fourth annual award, especially because none of the quality is lost whether you’re playing the game on a high-end PC or an iOS device like an iPad 2.
The “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” Award
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This one goes out to a game that heavily borrows some elements from other titles—but then does them better than the series it borrowed them from. This year, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the recipient for this award, because they out–Assassin’s Creed-ed Assassin’s Creed, especially this year. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but if I’m the guys at Ubisoft, I’d be a little peeved that the folks at Monolith and Warner Bros. knocked out of the park on their first try things Ubisoft is still struggling to get right.
The “No Such Thing as a Sophomore Slump” Award
When you consider how big a splash Supergiant Games made with their 2011 breakout indie hit, Bastion, it would’ve been understandable if the pressure of that success caused them to regress a little in their next effort. Instead, they showed that they’re a force to be reckoned with in the development community, as their second game, Transistor, was as intriguing and as moving as their first. Borrowing only a minimal amount of elements from Bastion, Transistor gave us compelling new combat and upgrade systems while telling the heart-wrenching story of protagonist Red and her lost love as it plays out in her dystopian future, and provided another immersive experience for gamers everywhere.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2014 Awards Schedule


A rumble in the jungle

I absolutely loved Donkey Kong Country Returns when it released on the Wii more than three years ago. It was a long-awaited return to form for Nintendo’s simian supreme. I’ll admit, however, despite the success Retro pulled off with Returns, I was a bit worried when I heard their next game was a direct sequel. Unlike their previously successful resuscitation of a dormant Nintendo franchise with Metroid Prime, platformers like Donkey Kong Country don’t really have an overarching story tying all the games together. I feared that Retro had already pulled out all the stops, and that Tropical Freeze would be a clone with a new coat of paint. Sometimes when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze sees our beloved banana-hoarding ape and his family celebrating DK’s birthday when a cold wind comes blowing in from across the sea. Suddenly, Donkey Kong’s tropical paradise has become a winter wonderland. New Viking-like enemies, the Snowmads, have appeared out of nowhere to claim Donkey Kong Island for their own, and they promptly send DK and friends out to sea. The Kong Clan must now band together and work their way back across a variety of new and uncharted locales before taking on the Snowmad leader to reclaim their lost home.

Yes, it’s the same “Someone’s stolen DK’s home/horde” story as always. But, then again, Mario’s almost always rescuing a kidnapped Princess Peach, too. You don’t play a Nintendo platformer for the story. It’s simply an excuse to test your skill with a controller over the course of dozens of specially crafted stages.

It’s these stages that make it clear that Retro is just as talented as Nintendo. For one, the precision required is a notch higher than in Returns, and it’ll push you more than you might expect. By the time I got through the entire game, I’d had a great experience, but I also felt like I’d accomplished something by beating a game that was no pushover—a rare feat among modern platformers. The difficulty ramps up smoothly, and I never once felt smothered by a sudden array of collapsing platforms or other hazards. Sure, a few trial-and-error stages caused me to sacrifice some life balloons, but for the most part, the game informs about the dangers ahead and how to bypass them, leaving it up to the player to input the proper commands. For example, a lone Snowmad walks under a giant plant—and the plant then eats the Snowmad. That enemy’s clearly there to say “stay the f*** away from this thing” without you having to be the victim first.

Should any individual stage start to bring on conniptions, though, you can still find ways to overcome the challenge through purchasing items. By spending the plentiful collectible Banana Coins at Funky Kong’s shop, you can accrue more lives, additional air for the underwater segments, extra armor for mine-carts, Banana Juice for invincibility, and more. Most experienced platform players will probably only visit Funky to try their hand at the gumball machine that spits out randomized 3D character models, but it’s a nice touch to offer these options so that players of all skill levels can enjoy the adventure.

While any level can be cleared with Donkey Kong alone, the areas drastically change if he has Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky Kong on his back. Each partner offers special advantages, and they all feel different from each other. Dixie’s helicopter spin gives Donkey Kong a boosted jump, and her slow hover back to the ground affords the chance to take a little extra care when hopping from platform to platform. Diddy’s rocket barrels help DK glide across long gaps more smoothly as well, but he may prove most useful underwater, where he gives a huge speed boost. Finally, Cranky’s expertise comes in helping DK avoid taking damage from spikes with a move that makes him look like Scrooge McDuck in Capcom’s Ducktales games as he hop alongs on his cane. While you may come to rely on a favorite (mine was Dixie), in order to find all the game’s secrets, you’ll need to learn how best to all utilize their unique skillsets and switch between them when necessary.

What’s more, the variety between stages is astounding. Not content to simply offer traditional mine-cart levels, Tropical Freeze instead includes mine-cart rides that take you through a sawmill and see you racing against runaway buzzsaws. Underwater levels don’t just have you swimming in a lagoon; they have you searching for treasure to find the key to unlock the exit. This diversity continues into the “regular” levels, which see DK running through a burning savannah, leaping through a spiraling tornado, and riding a hot-air balloon through the clouds. I honestly never wanted to put my controller down just because I wanted to see what wacky situation I’d be thrown into next.

There’s also one thing I never really expected from Tropical Freeze, but I got it in spades: replayability. If you blow through the main adventure, the game’s about 12 to 15 hours long, but there’s easily enough content here for three times that. Not only do all levels include collecting all the K-O-N-G letters and five to nine puzzle pieces to unlock some awesome concept art, but they also offer time trials to unlock medals. The time-trial videos can be uploaded to a worldwide leaderboard, or you can download other players’ runs to see how they were able to get Gold in a particular level and make their speed-run tricks your own. This process is so seamless, in fact, that I hope more Nintendo games start using it. On top of all this, some stages have multiple exits to unlock branching paths, and it wouldn’t be a true Donkey Kong Country game if there weren’t some hidden worlds.

Despite my gushing, I’ve got a couple of minor gripes with Tropical Freeze. The chaos that is co-op makes playing this mode almost worthless unless you and your partner are perfectly in sync. So, even though the option’s there, this game shines most when played solo. I also wish we would’ve seen more of Donkey Kong’s animal buddies from the SNES days. The returning water levels especially screamed for Enguarde the Swordfish to return, even with the Kongs now able to defend themselves underwater.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is, otherwise, an absolute blast to play. With stunning audio and visuals, combined with gameplay depth and variety, Tropical Freeze has easily cemented itself as one of the best platformers I’ve ever played.

Developer: Retro Studios • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 02.21.14
One of the best platformers I’ve ever played, Tropical Freeze finds a way to build on the successful foundation of Donkey Kong Country Returns in new and wonderful ways.
The Good New and creative challenges throughout keep gameplay fresh.
The Bad Co-op leaves something to be desired.
The Ugly Thinking of what could have happened to Enguarde, Expresso, and the rest of DK’s SNES buddies.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a Wii U exclusive, and was reviewed using a retail copy provided by Nintendo.