Donkey Kong Country Returns was a damn good platformer. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best platformer.  It’s mixture of spot on controls, clever level design, and crushing difficulty turned it into an instant classic.

It was a really good game, is what I’m saying.

A sequel seems almost like a dream come true.  Luckily, I was on hand at E3 to give Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a spin, and now I’m here to give you all the wonderful details.  To start with, the game looks good.  Really good.  The entire thing runs at a rock solid 60 frames per second, is incredibly smooth, and looks absolutely gorgeous.  Check out the screenshots below to see what I mean.

As for how it plays, it’s very similar to Returns but with some subtle improvements.  First is how incredibly alive the levels feel.  There’s always something interesting going on in the background and foreground, such as leaves swaying or fish swimming.  In addition, the level I played changed as I played.  Jumping on the decaying metal that made up platforms would cause it to collapse and swing, sometimes reforming new platforms.  Trees would grow while I played and create new places to jump to and explore.  Every level is overflowing with small details that turn stages into what feels like living worlds.  Even the changing camera angles, which I’ll admit sounded silly when Iwata mentioned them in the Nintendo Direct, added to how alive the levels felt.  It made everything look dynamic and ever changing.

Also worth mentioning is the feel of DK himself.  Though the controls are the same as Returns when using the Wii remote and the same as Returns 3D when using the Gamepad, DK actually feels a little different.  This is most noticeable when making big jumps, because now Donkey Kong feels like a big ape.  His movement have weight to them, and the way he gains and loses momentum and flies through the air feel exactly as they should.  Even though they’re both 2D platformers with similar controls, playing Donkey Kong Country feels entirely different from playing New Super Mario Bros.

Finally, the level and stage design is really good, just as you’d expect from a DKC game.  Although I only got to play one level myself I did get to watch many others being played, and each showed incredible creativity and variety.  Even the levels that I was told are from an early part of the game were just as good as the best levels in Returns, and had a lot of variety such as mixing swimming and above water platforming in the same level.

A few people may be disappointed that Retro is working on  Donkey Kong and not Metroid or F-Zero, and in a small way I am, too.  But after playing Tropical Freeze I can confidently say that their talents are being put to good use and we can expect another extraordinary game.