The new Funky Mode lets more people enjoy this amazing but tough platformer.
When we first reviewed Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on the Wii U in 2014, we gave it a 9.0, for Amazing. Here’s what we said about it then:
“Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a great platformer full of tense sequences and tough levels. Boss battles are a huge highlight, and it’s packed with hard-to-find secrets and collectibles. Multiplayer could use some improvement, but I found myself laughing whenever my teammate and I wiped out on some of these unforgiving setups. But a rewarding sense of accomplishment stuck with me each time I overcame a new obstacle, and that feeling kept me going all the way to the end.”
Read the full Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze review.
The Switch version maintains the difficulty and tough bosses, but adds a more accessible and fun Funky Mode, if you aren’t up for the soul-crushing challenges of some of Tropical Freeze’s later levels.
Tropical Freeze looks great on Switch. The excellent animation moves fluidly while docked or in handheld. I did find myself leaning in close during tense boss battles so I could better keep track of everything happening on screen, but portable Donkey Kong is excellent. I wouldn’t recommend taking on some of the harder levels in public if, like me, you’re unable to stifle frustrated sighs even when surrounded by strangers.
Funky Mode isn’t a mode for babies.
The much more accessible Funky Mode is the biggest change to the Tropical Freeze formula, and it’s a welcome one because it makes things easier without feeling like a mode for babies. The precision jumps and timing are still there. You can’t cheese your way through any of the levels or battles, you just get a few extra chances to correct your mistakes. It lets you play as either Donkey Kong or the titular Funky Kong, the coolest of all the Kongs. With his wrap-around sunglasses, belt-fastened jorts, tank-top, and bandana, he’s the cool uncle who knows a lot about living, and a little about love. Thanks to a surfboard that lets you feather your falls, Funky’s jumps are much more forgiving than even the jumps possible with Diddy’s rocket or Dixie’s ponytail helicopter. Funky’s surfboard also makes him briefly immune to spike damage, and brings the total level of tubularness in the Switch version to a place unheard of on Wii U. He also needs no help from Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky. If that wasn’t enough to take the edge off the difficulty, Funky Mode also gives you an extra heart for each level, and hearts to replenish your health appear more often during levels.
The controls are tight and jumps are easy to pull off, but I found playing in handheld mode harder than playing with the Pro Controller. I had difficulty with the smaller shoulder buttons on the Joy-Cons, used to pick up barrels and stunned enemies. Sometimes I’d accidentally throw something because there isn’t as much play in those shoulder buttons. Likewise, I struggled to beat the final boss with the Switch in handheld because picking up and throwing stunned enemies is a huge part of the process. Once I sat down on my couch with a controller, I… still struggled, but less so.
Difficulty in Tropical Freeze is unrelenting, but almost never feels cheap.
Difficulty in Tropical Freeze is unrelenting, but almost never feels cheap, with one major exception. One of the later rocket-barrel levels was so frustrating, it’s not only my least favorite level in Tropical Freeze, it’s one of my least favorite levels, ever. You’re required to navigate tiny, deadly corridors using the clunkiest controls in the game. I put it up there with the underwater dam level in the original TMNT for NES. I really hated it, and if I need to revisit it to 100-percent Tropical Freeze, well, I guess I won’t be 100-percenting it.
The boss battles, too, are difficult but fair. I never felt like I died because of some cheap move on the part of the game. I died because I just wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t good enough A LOT, particularly on some of the later bosses. Thankfully extra lives by way of balloon are easy to come by. Funky sells them in his shop for the low price of just three coins, and there are plenty of other chances to pick up extra chances along the way.