We didn't quite remember how difficult Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was, or perhaps we're a bit embarrassed to admit it took us a few hours this time to master a game we'd beaten already four years ago. What we did remember, however, is how good it was, as it's arguably one of the best side-scrolling platformers ever. With this new version for the Switch, Nintendo wants to enhance the quality of the Wii U original by adding true portability and some new accessibility features, and it seems to have helped a lot.
Since the game is known for being pretty tough, it's clear the introduction of Funky Kong as an alternate playable character is way more than a mere cosmetic, fan-servant guest appearance. It's a fully purposeful addition, meaning that what could be deemed as a hardcore platformer at times now gets the kind of mainstream appeal you'd usually expect in the genre, but it's something that has been implemented in a smart way.
Funky Kong gets his own 'campaign' so to speak, as the surfer leaves his former travel agency and retail businesses behind to take an active role in events, meaning you'll play as Funky (and only as him, with Donkey Kong absent and thus no aid from Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky) should you choose his brand-new playstyle. With a third heart/hit on his energy bar, double-jump, hovering ability, infinite rolling, and taking no damage from spikes, Funky Kong looks like an overpowered, God mode-like character on paper, but the truth is that he's so well implemented that it doesn't come across this way in practice.
In fact, he feels so good to play, that it really just makes the game more accessible or, as Nintendo puts it, allows for a chill mode so everyone can enjoy their time with it. In other words, it's of course easier, but it's not a dumbed-down version of the game, as the new character works surprisingly well with the original level design, even making for interesting new challenges for speedrunners. As such, even though it looks weird story-wise, Funky Kong is the best choice for new players and for those who want to take a first run at learning the ropes, whereas Donkey Kong fits better for genre-lovers or those who have gone through Funky training.
Retro Studio's Donkey Kong Country experience is unique in that it differs a lot from the blocky, timed, ability-based 2D Mario levels, as well as from the more relaxed pacing of its Yoshi or Kirby counterparts. This game is all about momentum, about getting your ape to use the needed strength and make to each leap, and you'll often have little room and time to gain that speed. You won't see the Game Over screen so easily because there are additional lives (balloons), but believe us when we say that you'll probably pop a fair few of those balloons in each level, even between two checkpoints.
That being said, one has to be more humble when approaching the difficult levels. We're so stubborn and self-confident we don't want to buy any aid items and we want to grab every puzzle piece and every K.O.N.G. letter as we go, but if you personally think that helpful items are part of the game, you'll have a fairer time. In this sense, it can get frustrating, the player too dependent on learning sections by heart (which again takes us back to Funky Kong being a friendlier starting point), but that happens with every major 2D platformer, and the brilliant level design will just make you want to keep playing. It's full of secrets and varied mechanics, and it rarely pulls off the same trick twice. The worlds feel physical, alive, and rewarding above all as it always offers up a reward or two for those curious to explore and to take risks.