Today, let’s celebrate a quite life-affirming and joyous level from the brilliant Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. This thing… we’ve seen some gamers online comment about how it’s reduced them to happy tears. That’s the power of monkeys for you.
After a while off, we returned to the game last week and were once again blown away by its excellence. Particularly this level. It’s the first one of the third world (3-1) in the Bright Savannah region.
It’s a masterclass in level design. Look at it in action, it’s a joy to behold. The bopping trees, the strange giraffe things, the seemingly ancient contraptions gyrating wildly at the end of the stage. The music!
American developer Retro Studios reinvigorated the legendary Donkey Kong country series with this entry – for us, definitely the best of the lot. In the 1990s, British developer Rare released the Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the SNES and mighty excellent they are, too.
Retro Studios brought the series back to life for the Wii. And Tropical Freeze followed on the Wii U in 2014. As the console was something of a flop, the game didn’t sell well despite rave reviews (on the whole – GameSpot giving it 6/10 *ahem*).
As the Nintendo Switch is a smash hit, it’s great Tropical Freeze has a new lease of life. Not least as people get to experience Grassland Groove.
A big part of the level is, as with all Donkey Kong games, the music. British composer and industry legend David Wise returned to the series for the first time since 1996 for lead the soundtrack.
The result is an exceptional leap forward over Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010) on the Wii. Wise gets evocative and ramps up the awe factor, timing musical shifts for each section of the level.
The result is Grassland Groove culminates with an ecstatic high. The sunset in the background, the rolling African plains, and the soaring sounds and chants. It’s all rather magical.
And to play it all – as a collective experience – is quite magnificent. For us, it’s one of the greatest video game levels in history. A masterpiece.
Addendum: More DKC Best Bits
From the Autumn Heights section of Tropical Freeze, we also want to draw attention to the lovely Alpine Incline. It’s another great level with some inspiring music.
Some of the underwater stages are sensational as well. What becomes obvious is the effort Retro Studios put in here.
The very best stages have a sense of real drama to them, ramping up into challenging and epic levels that feel like labrynth mazes.
We do think Tropical Freeze demands a reputation as one of the best modern 2D platformers. Levels like Amiss Abyss are beautiful to look at, incredible to listen to, and thrilling to play.
With the above level, headphones on in handheld mode with the Switch, it’s a quite magical experience. The wonders of video games if you’ve ever thought this form of entertainment to be a bit puerile or silly.
And although we still hail Ori and the Blind Forest as the current pinnacle of modern 2D platforming, Tropical Freeze demands its place as one of the finest games of the last decade.