Donkey Disappointment & Dreary Digging: Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze & SteamWorld Dig Impressions


As I smack games off the to-do list and even buy and complete one within 6 hours for the hell of it, I feel like going on and on about what I think to strangers on the internet. Convenient it is then that I can do so so easily. First we tear into Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.

A 2D platformer with not a drastic change from the Wii game prior, DKTF is more of the same in gameplay with some tweaks to keep it fresh and some new additions with better hardware. David Wise of the original trilogy returns to compose the track which consists of almost entirely new songs with some call backs and remixes which is pretty damn stellar. Well it sounds like it should, more on that in a moment.

I’m gonna get this out the way, personally I think the game is above average but not much more. Most of my experience was just going through the motions without any remarkable, sinking to irritation and rising to delight only occasionally. The soundtrack only caught my attention on about 2 or so levels each world of which there are 6, sometimes not a single one in a world would please me.

With those 6 worlds which can arguably make the game a bit shorter than it feels it should be, you get the basic stages, secret exit stages reached by obviously getting to a secret exit in a stage and what I dub the “Kong” level which requires all the KONG letters acquired in every stage. You also have puzzle pieces again with unlock art to view in the extras, not much of a reward but they will be your big collectible to find as they are the well hidden ones, sometimes behind the land and other times being non existent till you collect all the bananas in a section.

Some of the positives I can give this game is that it generally does look rather nice, props to the fruit island for its colourful choice of delectables and a lush green forest. Some of the Kong stages got a big old smile from me thanks to a fair difficulty but a high difficulty, asking you to make precise jumps and not throwing in any distractions or gimmicks, just make the jump or leave.

I still find the bashing of each boss after beating them in a fight to be amusing, especially when they took up so much of my time. The introduction of Kranky and Dixie Kong as partners with a Duck-Tales cane jump and height gaining hover respectively are enjoyable, with each partner coming with their own nuke of all enemies on screen to turn them into a collectible based on the partner, providing more than just their platforming augments to consider.

Okay fun times over, lets destroy this game. The alternative control set-ups on the Gamepad or Wii U Pro controller allow for a button to be mapped to the roll action, however the Wii Remote & Nunchuck set-up still has it on motion control….while still having TWO BUTTONS DO THE EXACT SAME FUCKING THING. I had several deaths from trying to roll on a tiny platform with no success or it didn’t roll and I didn’t get the momentum to make a jump. I find this set-up the most comfortable and I’m penalized for it, made worse by the fact that I wouldn’t have to be if you could just set one of the two identical actions to the rolling.

The music is really uninteresting and is set as an atmospheric soundtrack more than anything. This would be fine if it ever really made me feel the mood, I can’t even recall over half the game and I even sat in the sound test a week ago playing them all. The final islands tracks are pretty good as they are set as a triumphant battle through your snow covered home as you slip and slide for glorious victory. A few other tracks from the savannah themed island and the autumn one are also pretty enjoyable but the rest aren’t powerful enough to make an impact for me.

Water levels. They are back. They have oxygen limits now. They also control kinda badly and aren’t friendly to certain partners. They don’t control great because you don’t have a fantastic turning speed and if you try to do a 180 you do so rather slowly, I even did it accidentally a few times while just trying to make a hard turn. The partners suffer because Diddy Dong gives yours “mash a button to swim faster” option a boost of speed every so often which makes precision impossible and Cranky Kong gives you a tiny burst where he can attack that doesn’t keep up a good speed. Dixie is the clear winner with a straight improvement to your speed with a slight drop in turning.

Speaking of partners, Dixie Kong is the absolute fucking queen of this game. Her nuke turns enemies into gold hearts which stack with your current ones to give you more HP, Cranky turns them into the banana coin currency which are easy finds anyway and Diddy turns them into lives which become obsolete by around the 4th or 5th stage if you are good at the end of level barrel timings. Annoyingly there are a few puzzle pieces and perhaps a secret exit that require Cranky Kong as he can bounce on spikes no problem, he is good for time trials as you maintain roll speed during the jumps but I ignore him otherwise, same with Diddy as his hover is straight up worse than Dixies.

Finally, some of this games difficulty comes out of not knowing what to do in a split second moment. Your running along in a lava level and the platforms are sinking, you gotta go quick to outrun it and then…suddenly this one goes slowly and you are supposed to know to stop for 5 whole seconds? I didn’t have to die there, they thought a sudden pace change would be good. The 4th and 5th Kong levels really got along well with me, good old platforming prowess….the rest were gimmicky or hid the puzzle piece above an enemy that only appeared in time if you waited for no reason on the timed platform.

WHY OH WHY IS THERE NO INDICATION OF WHAT BANANAS ARE TIED TO PUZZLE PIECES. Surely this extra tight timed banana collection section would net me a puzzle piece.Nope, a life, just one. The puzzle piece is those 5 bananas over there. This comes into a whole world of its own in the rocketbarrel levels, auto scrolling stages that usually rely on level memorization rather than reaction time, like knowing what’s gonna happen to that wall you are getting eerily close to without it moving or that KONG letter at the very top of the screen when dodging that projectile had you all the way at the bottom.

All that, plus long, drawn out bosses and a pathetic final boss with an obnoxiously awkward hitbox make the game just kinda grind my gears. When it worked I felt accomplished and knew I was at fault for not paying attention or missing a timing. The rest was uninteresting, annoying or a missed opportunity by a mile. I’d rather play Donkey Kong Country Returns honestly, it left more of an impact on me and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more.

Also a small little impression of Steamworld Dig from the 3DS eshop since it was on sale and I beat it in a single 6 hour sitting (which it had the audacity to give my a bronze rank for). In a world of steam robots you inherit your fathers mine where he died in a tiny little mining town. Your goal is to dig, collect ores and find out what your father gave you this mine for, upgrading as you do. I found the games theme novel and the gameplay is solid if very repetitive, get loot, return to surface, upgrade and get better loot with new abilities and improved tools.

The art is charming if basic and the music is thematic yet incredibly dull as you get the same tune for a section of which there are 3, plus the town and the one boss at the end. It starts off fun and finding loot while making sure you can get back to the surface was engaging, soon to become a chore as the areas bring in new obstacles and problems that slow you down, some of the enemies can be a bit of a pain too. They do an absolutely foolish thing near the end of the game by giving you a metal detector to see where the ores are on the map, eliminating the exploration aspect that kept me going and replacing it with a “just get the loot and press on”.

All in all I conquered it first time in 6 hours with only a handful of deaths all came from being surprised by falling blocks which insta-kill and not understanding the explosive crates which you can smack with your pickaxe despite exploding when dropping a single block down for some reason. If there would be a sequel I’d like to see the ores be presented in a grander way that just new types, new sizes would have made me really giddy as I haul out a hunk of Unobtanium the size of me. I’d also like to go tone other mines that feature more of the environment, along with some music that doesn’t loop for the eternity that is the second area you go through. That area is very large which makes it the biggest offender for me.

I’d say buy it during the sale and give it a whirl, its nice while it lasts and digging is a rather fun activity if you hadn’t noticed.

How big a fan are you of games where digging is a core concept? Do you think Retro Studios should try another Donkey Kong game or move on to greener pastures? I’m moving on to Bayonetta 1 for my next Wii U game, got any thoughts or words of warning for me? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.


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  1. #1 by moshfish on May 23, 2015 - 3:50 am

    I really liked Steamworld Dig. It reminded me of playing Motherload, that weird flash game, back on what must have been a decade ago. I liked the atmosphere, too. Like there was something sinister going on beneath the surface (literally and metaphorically). Not to mention that robots + Western setting can never go wrong.

    I’m usually a big fan of digging games, solely because I enjoy making everything look neat and tidy. All the mines/tunnels have to be the same width and height. Terraria was hell for that reason.

    Never liked Donkey Kong, though. Something about it just always rubbed me the wrong way.


    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on May 23, 2015 - 4:15 pm

      I think after playing Motherload going to Steamworld Dig felt a bit too familiar, good but doesn’t have the impact it needed. I had a few issues early on with the low manoeuvrability of your character, climbing out of the tunnels was a pain without the Steam Jump and later Double Jump.

      Liked by 1 person

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