The common grocery store banana is going extinct. Climate change is leaving rain forests in ruin. This is not a great time for Donkey Kong. “Tropical Freeze” isn’t a subtle title either.
Reality changed around Donkey Kong. So did he, enough to turn him from construction site nuisance to pro kart racer and into a platform hero. Despite the lingering concerns, Kong maintains his heroic approach. He’s fighting for something that matters now. Rogue penguins leave their dwindling arctic home seeking a new land; either they brought the cold or they follow the changing climate. Either way, they’ll eliminate bananas and rain forests on their own. Tropical Freeze is depressing, considering. It’s a war of animals who just want somewhere to live.
It’s a lot to consider in a floppy, good-natured platformer. Despite decades of separation from origin studio Rare, Donkey Kong Country didn’t change. Rare’s ideas and style remain intact, creating an often frantic, bouncy, and whimsical cartoon. Blasting out of barrels and the inherent frustrations evident in mine carts never lost any charm. Kong still rescues compatriots from barrels (however they get in there) and snatches balloons for extra lives. Those features have been around long enough to garner nostalgia points.
A friendly soundtrack plays behind the action, a pleasant beat. Tropical Freeze borrows some modern platform kinks too, including silhouette action. But, if jungle lands disappear and the final banana horde rots, maybe there’s time to jettison Kong’s routine for something outside of his new norm. Nostalgia points fade quickly, just like those rain forests, and Tropical Freeze is teetering.