I have played and finished every Donkey Kong Country game that has ever been released, and what makes this accomplishment even more noteworthy is I've done so in the company with one or more of my kids present. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, my son and I played through the entire game cooperatively and found all of the puzzle pieces and secrets. And as of yesterday, the same is true of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Well, to be honest...we still have to finish the three secret levels we unlocked after beating the game and all of the levels, but otherwise we finished the final boss, found all of the puzzle pieces and other hidden stuff.

I've long said Donkey Kong Country Returns is as close to being perfect as any game I have ever played. I don't believe any game is perfect, but if I did, Donkey Kong Country Returns would be on this short list. And as strongly as I feel about that game, I actually think Tropical Freeze did a bit better. I applaud Nintendo for the workmanship that clearly went into making this game so spectacular. It too, is about as close to being perfect as you can get. There are a few very minor flaws. Flaws, so microscopic they sound more like whining than anything else. I don't necessarily believe in buying a console for the sole purpose of playing a single game, but I did get a Playstation 3 just to play Uncharted. Thankfully I was able to use it to play other games. I'm not suggesting you run out and buy a Wii-U just to play this game. But if you're going to buy a Wii-U this should be the first game you buy...and if it's the only game you own for it for a while...so be it.

What makes this game so spectacular?

I'm glad you asked. And don't worry - it will be SPOILER FREE!

Nintendo has a keen eye for taking the elements from the previous games players seemed to enjoy the most and tweak them and refine them and improve them. Everything I loved about the older games is included in this game - only better. Then of course there are all sorts of new features and content to look at, point to, and be amazed by.

What's to love about this game?

Audio / Visuals - Yep.

Gameplay - Yep.

Level Design - Yep.

Co-Op Mode - Yep.

All of the Donkey Kong Country games have a certain cartoonish quality to them and they are simply fantastic in Tropical Freeze. Every level is rendered in breathtaking detail with lots of attention given to the obvious things you see, but also the little things in the background you might not notice unless you just sat back and took it all in. What is even more impressive is this level of detail permeates throughout the game. Just when you play a level you think couldn't look any better, you start the next one and it is just as captivating. The details on the characters is just as sharp, and watching the cut scenes takes me back to my childhood days of watching Saturday morning cartoons. Easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on the Nintendo.

You can't have a Donkey Kong Country game without a certain degree of running, jumping, swinging, swimming and other athletic abilities and they are just as demanding in this game as any other. The way the developers manipulate the features they know you are already expecting and make them better is quite a feat. For example, you know there is going to be a mine cart level, but the mine cart level in this game has a unique and surprising twist to it. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but trust me, if you play the game you'll know what I'm talking about when it happens... Some of the actions you are required to perform are amazing acrobatic sequences that leave you feeling rather accomplished when you finally pull them off. The other cool feature with this game is the characters. As I mentioned, I played the entire game with my son, who played Donkey Kong. But I could choose between Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong or Cranky Kong. Each has their own unique ability, which could be of great benefit depending on the level and obstacle you were trying to tackle.

There is such a variety of levels in this game you'll find yourself trudging through a muggy jungle one moment and running from a snowy avalanche in the next. I can't praise the level design enough and though some elements are recycled from world to world or level to level, I never felt like it was too repetitive. Each world has three bonus levels designated by the letters A, B or K. The K levels are extremely difficult. I know on one particular level (I think it was 2-K or 3-K) we expended over 100+ lives trying to get through it (granted, most of that was from me - failing miserably). It's a challenge,  for sure. I've read a number of forums were others expressed similar misfortune on the dreaded K levels. But looking back now that we've beat them, they were pretty fun.

Okay...so I admitted there were a few things about the game I didn't like...and I admitted they were petty. It won't take long to go over them. The title. I hated the titled. While tropical freeze might play into the theme of the game, it doesn't really seem to fit with the Donkey Kong universe or any of the other games. Speaking of theme, I did not like the intro jingle...I don't really know how to describe the short little ditty that plays when the game loads and you see the start screen. A few vocalists singing Donkey Kong in a slow, drawn out manner. I can't tell if it was going for a hippy sound or an islander sound, or a hippy islander sound...but I cringed a little bit every time I started the game. It just didn't seem to fit the game either. Thankfully, the rest of the soundtracks are brilliant, as you would expect from a Donkey Kong game. I've only done a quick review of the soundtracks, and it would seem a few of the composers from the other games worked on this one - and it shows - and this is a good thing. My only other complaint - the game is devilishly difficult. If I didn't have my son, who is a far better gamer than I'll ever be, I don't think I could ever finish this game. Not because I didn't want to, but because I physically couldn't make it through some of the levels. They are brutal. They are challenging. And if you are trying to get a perfect score, you better pack a lunch and plan on buying plenty of extra men from Funky Kong. Again, these are petty grievances and don't take anything away from the brilliance of the game.

The Wii-U has been receiving a beating in the news lately, but if Nintendo could use the same or similar approach with other games they used to produce Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, perhaps the story would be quite the opposite. I think this game is one of the finest Nintendo has ever created.