Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is one of the best games in the series
I’ve always been a fan of the Donkey Kong Country games from the SNES. I loved Donkey Kong as a character and enjoyed all of the games. When I heard that Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was coming out on the Nintendo Switch, I knew I had to try it out.
I recently played through Tropical Freeze for research towards designing for my game, Beware. As I played through the game, I learned many design lessons that I could apply to my own game.
- Use of characters: In the original 3 games, Donkey Kong was only playable in one of the games, and he was not the best character to play. In this game, he’s the main character you play, which is good because I always liked his design. They improve his gameplay by having his friends, Diddy, Dixie and Cranky, as powerups. They ride on his back, doubling his health bar and giving him a special jump ability (jetpack, twirl, or pogo). The fact that they use these characters as power-ups was a smart design choice. It makes the gameplay more interesting and also adds to the replay value of the game.
- Level mechanics variations: Every level has a new mechanic. This sounds like a lot, but they execute this by having slight variations of the same few mechanics. For example, a level might have some sort of jump pad. Then another level with have a variation of a jump pad, like one that not only looks different, but can only be activated when you stand on it and use melee attack. Then another has a jump pad that every time you jump on it, it switches something in the level. Etc. They use this concept of variations with all their mechanics, including the enemies, which prevents the game from becoming stale. The game keeps the player interested and engaged by constantly throwing new challenges at them.
- Level flow: The levels flow in 4 steps. Introduction of the mechanic in a safe area, next the mechanic is developed further by adding risk such as enemies or obstacles, 3rd step is to challenge the player by combining this mechanic with other mechanics from previous levels, then the final step of the flow is for the player to completely master the mechanic in a test of skill. The level flow is well designed and helps the player learn the new mechanics quickly, without feeling too overwhelmed. The gradual increase in difficulty keeps the player interested and engaged.
- The illusion of dynamic levels: The levels are not dynamic, they are very linear, but the game does a great job creating the illusion of dynamic levels. Many levels will display this on the climax of the level. There are levels that the world is blowing up and crumbling around the player. There’s a mine cart level in which the tracks are being built right in front of the player, as the player dodges the obstacles. This isn’t dynamic because it’s the same every time you play it, but it makes for a thrilling experience. The game also has beautiful graphics and sound design, which enhances the experience.
- Difficulty: The game is very challenging but gives options to make the game easier. First off, you can play as Funky Kong, who has a double jump and has 5 health points instead of just 3. The downside to him is that you don’t get to pick up the other Kongs (Diddy, Dixie and Cranky). Aside from Funky Kong, the game will allow you to skip a level if you die too many times. You don’t get to keep any of the collectibles if you do so. Additionally, the game includes an inventory system which is entirely optional. As you progress through the game, you collect coins that you can then use to purchase inventory items. These items include green balloons that will respawn you if you fall off the screen, banana potions that will allow you to take five extra hits, and other items to make the game easier.
This inventory system is a great addition to the game because it makes it more accessible for players who may be struggling with the game’s difficulty level. However, it’s worth noting that the later levels in the game include hazards that will instantly kill you regardless of how many inventory items you have. For example, there are lava pits that you’ll need to avoid, and if you fall in, you’ll instantly lose a life. So while the inventory system is a great way to make the game easier, it’s important to note that it won’t completely remove the game’s challenging aspects.
In conclusion, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an excellent addition to the Donkey Kong franchise. The game offers a great gameplay experience, challenging difficulty, and a kid-friendly theme. As a father of two small boys, it’s important to me to play games that are appropriate for them to watch. I appreciate the effort put into making this game accessible to a younger audience, while still being enjoyable for adults. Although I didn’t get to try out the co-op feature, the game still offers a great experience for solo players. As I continue to develop my own game, Beware, I plan to take inspiration from the lessons I’ve learned from this game. If you’re a fan of platformers or looking for a challenging game, I highly recommend giving Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a try.
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