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Watch Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze’s Funky Mode in action

All hail the chillest of Kongs

Chelsea Stark (she/her), executive editor, has been covering video games for more than a decade.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze gained a reputation when it was released on Wii U in 2014 for being incredibly challenging. While the game’s first levels are breezy romps through the Kongs’ tropical paradise, its difficulty ratchets up quickly, and your chosen Kong’s hearts never seem to stretch far enough.

Or, as we wrote in our 2014 review:

Tropical Freeze gets very difficult. Later stages had me rigid with attention, as one tiny miscalculation meant certain death. And I died hundreds of times throughout my playthrough, mostly during boss fights that ramp up in difficulty radically after the first world. It got frustrating, hence all my screaming at cartoon monkeys.

For the Switch re-release, Tropical Freeze’s original difficulty has been left blessedly untouched for those who like a challenge. But if you want to enjoy some of the most creative level design and wacky boss battles at a more relaxed pace, Funky Kong is your boy gorilla. Starting a game in the Switch-exclusive Funky Mode will increase your overall hearts from two to three if you play as Donkey Kong, but playing as Funky himself cranks that up to five.

Funky has lots of other in-game assists. His surfboard lets him bounce across beds of spikes untroubled, and he has a double jump that makes tricky platforming a lot more forgiving. Funky also doesn’t have a breath meter when swimming underwater. While this makes early levels feel a bit too simple, Tropical Freeze hides a lot of its difficulty in the back half of the game.

The only downside to all this is that you can’t switch modes mid-playthrough. If you want to turn the difficulty up or down once you’ve reached Tropical Freeze’s more irksome late-game boss battles, you’re unfortunately stuck. Hopefully an update can address this, as it’s something handled so well in Celeste, released in January. That game balances demanding platforming with optional toggles that can make the mountain journey just a bit easier for players — and can be activated at any time.

But since so few people played Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze during its first go-round (it didn’t even crack the Wii U’s top selling games), its Switch re-release is made all the more tantalizing when it supports more skill levels. Even if you’ve played Tropical Freeze before, Funky Mode can dramatically change the game and make it worth a revisit.

Check out the video up top to see a full level of Funky Mode gameplay. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is out now for Nintendo Switch.