Last week I finally finished DKC Tropical Freeze, and there's a lot I forgot to mention in the last post. While I do think it is a pretty good game, all I still feel the flaws out way the pros. I still feel like the game moves awkwardly and clunky. Momentum from roll-jumping is so overpowered it makes performing, what was once the simplest and most useful technique in the DKC games, a big gamble now. I feel like this game tried to capture the kind of non-stop, fast-paced, fluent action style of recent Rayman titles such as Origins and Legends, but the slow, clumsy, and sometimes ill-read controls prevent it from doing so, as well as some poorly designed level structure. Many people are praising this game - way more than I expected, honestly - and a handful are even calling it the saving grace of the Wii U. One of the most common bits of praise I hear is the level design. I can't really agree with that. A lot of the stages display setups that would play really well if your controls were quicker and more fluent, like in Rayman Legends, and when you got good at them, you could swing through them freely and look like a badass. The game just doesn't seem built for that kind of gameplay, though, whereas the Rayman games were built perfectly. The controls of the newer Rayman titles are very smooth, fast, and fluent, making it perfect for playing such crazy, twisting, action packed stages. DKC TF on the other hand feels slow and heavy, often also making me feel like I don't have very good control of my character. Even when you get really good at stages and rush through them, it just doesn't play very fluently. If you're rushing with a buddy or Rambi, you have to constantly tap 'R', which just enhances the awkward clumsiness and makes even more uncomfortable.
All the auto-elements that I like to refer to as "the cinematic bullshit" are also a cheap blow in this game. Most difficulty in stages comes from quickly encountering an event where lots of big changes happen in a second and you have close to no time to react. Now, before everybody comments "I had no problem with it", congratulations, aren't you the best, but when reviewing a game, let's be realistic. It isn't based on how hard or easy it was for me to play, but how hard or easy it would be in the hands of all gamers, casual and serious, old and young. In a better game, like the SNES DKC trilogy, for example, tricks and difficulty are built on the introduction of hazards and physics in the world, then expanding on them. For instance, Zinger, the bee enemy, is used early in the titles as a dead-end enemy. One touch from him and you're dead, and the game lets you know this by having him fly back and forth in front of barrels or guard stuff, as well as putting spikes allover him. So, then, when you're on a fast-paced rollercoaster ride, when a Zinger suddenly pops up right before you, you know to jump. This is the foundation for a good game. Now, the SNES DKC trilogy was certainly WAY too easy, but the challenge was fair and well-designed. In DKC TF, typically, you are being pushed through a high-speed area and when you land on a completely random platform that looks like all the others, it drops a bit, five random structures on the screen blow up and collapse, lava starts rising, a giant animal starts chasing you, and loads of cinematic effects like falling debris, explosions, and splashing lava cover the view of the screen. All of this happens in a split second when you land on the platform, and you are expected to take note of all of these graphical changes at once and know how to react to them. All the graphics are completely new every step of the stage, so you rarely have any way of knowing what these graphics will even do. That's just a cheap blow. You have to die or get lucky. The best strategy is to just die, and while Donkey Kong is making his weird noises and falling off the screen, you have to study the surroundings to try and figure out what actually happened, so that next time you will be ready. Trial and error is classic in games, but in such an unfair way, it's really just cheap, and makes playing the game pretty boring. Most of this game and it's secrets are built on this "cinematic bullshit". The developers didn't realize that players would not study every square inch of the graphics the way they did. There are several secrets that involve doing completely weird shit that no one would think of doing just because there is an extremely slight, easy-to-overlook detail in the graphics that, even when you do see it, it's almost impossible to know what to do about it. I'm ashamed to have to say I used Squawks a good many times in this game, where in the last one I only needed him once.
Now, I know I stated that the collecting-based secrets were dumb and overused in the last review, but I need to state it again. There are always strange setups of bananas and coins in stages, but only about two or three in most stages give you an item you need like a puzzle piece. However, there is absolutely no way of knowing which ones will give you a puzzle piece and which ones won't, so naturally, you have to collect them all. This is extremely tedious, and the end result becomes the player collecting bananas in strange setups more than they're actually playing the game. The secrets dominate this game, and if you aren't trying for them, the game isn't even that hard. However, if you do try for them, you'll just spend most of the game trying to collect series of bananas, and killing yourself on purpose because you missed some. In rocket barrel stages you are honestly better off just using Squawks. If not, you will just keep trying to collect every banana and item you see, killing yourself if you miss one to try again, usually just to find out that all you get is a coin or nothing from it. You'll save loads of time and lives, as well as prevent unneeded frustration, if you just use Squawks. I normally feel cheap using items like that in games, but in this game I really don't. I bought the game to play levels, not to collect series of bananas. New platformers are too built on secrets these days. What ever happened to games that you just play them to beat them, but they're damn challenging along the way. Why do we need to rush the actual game in a day or two, then spend weeks collecting make-believe rewards. Secrets are welcome, but at some point you need to find the balance. If the secrets out way the gameplay, you did it wrong, and this game is nothing but secrets.
After you beat the game and get all the stages or puzzle pieces or whatever, you unlock "hard mode". To be honest, I didn't even bother. It's cool that they give you this mode, as I was always a fan of getting a more difficult quest after beating the original one, but this isn't like the old hard quests. It's just the same game with no checkpoints, buddy barrels and hearts. No new enemies or traps or anything (to the best of my knowledge). If you already beat the game and found everything in it, chances are you know these levels good enough now to easily make it through them without taking hits. The only feature I can see being worth a try in this mode is the hard boss battles. The secrets make you play these stages so many times, you don't even want to play them again. All the secret finding took so long and was so boring and redundant, I was honestly just bored of the game and sick of playing by the time I unlocked hard mode. If you just got hard mode for beating every level, I bet I would have jumped right into it.
As I said before, the music is by far the best part of this game. This is one of the best soundtracks on the Wii/Wii U. In fact, I'd say the soundtrack is too good for this game. I enjoy listening to the tracks WAY more than I enjoy playing the game. Again, the game isn't bad, but it's just OK if you ask me. I was very disappointed in this game. I thought DKC Returns was extremely flawed, and was hoping they would make some drastic changes from that game, but, despite what most people are saying, they made very few changes from the game. All the things I didn't like about Returns came back in this game, save the tutorial pig. I felt like DKC Returns was just an experiment. The next one should have been vastly improved upon and designed more in the likeness of DK's most successful games, with clever innovations, but all it really is is a rehash of Returns. I excused the flaws of Returns more since it was an experiment and was a new studio's first time working with somebody else's critically acclaimed work, but in Tropical Freeze there's no excuse. They didn't even bother trying to change or improve anything from the last game. They just got lazy and comfortable working with everything from the last game and just made what feels like an expansion rather than a new game, much like the "New Super Mario Bros." series has become, though I honestly still find those games more fun to play. Add to it now the INSANE load time of this game, and you've got a slow, boring, and unimpressive game that barely excites me. They should really just remove the "Country" from the title and stop trying to mislead fans of Rare's classics like myself. Just call it DK Tropical Freeze, like Barrel Blast and Jungle Beat and all those other weird, experimental games.
I'm honestly shocked this game has become as extremely popular as it has. I mean, Returns was decently popular, but most people seemed to be displeased with it and agreed it could have been way better, so why is this game, which is practically the same thing, held on such a high pedestal? If anything, I feel if someone screws something up twice, you should be even harder on them, since they had two tries to get it right. I also figured since DKCReturns got such mixed reviews, they'd know better than to build a clone of it, but I guess not. So, yeah, DKC Tropical Freeze. It's OK. It's not very innovative, it's not too fun, it's pretty unfair, got too many secrets, it's shorter in length than it's prequel, there's little variety among environments, bad controls, but it's got an awesome soundtrack.
I honestly would change what I said last time. I only recommend buying this if you are a big fan of DKC Returns. For any other gamers, or those who weren't pleased with Returns, don't bother.
As a side note - that water world is an exact clone of the water stages from Rayman Origins and Legends. Seriously, you swim exactly the way you do in the Rayman games, only controlled worse and with crazy momentum when doing the spin attack, which you also did in the water in the Rayman games. The walls look the same, the same coral patches that pop in the ground when you get near to reveal items from the Rayman games are there, the same blue jellyfish enemies that move in pattern formations are there, the same long, spiny, electric seaweed arms that sway back and forth ar there, the sunken mechanical devices, tunnels, and lights from Rayman Legends are there, and the dark silhouette water stage looks just like the ones in Legends. Seriously, Retro, couldn't you try hiding it a bit?