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July 09, 2017 2 min read
Over this past Fourth of July extended weekend, I spent much of my time chilling out in the hotel pool while on vacation with my family. It was nice to just sit back and let the water envelope my body, to get some exercise swimming from end to end, and to dive down to the bottom, seeing how low I can go before freaking out and surfacing, gasping for air like the pansy I am. Oh yes, I love the water. Water levels in games? Not so much. Sure, The Legendary Starfy proved an entire game built around water levels could be a blast, but for the most part, water levels slow the action to a crawl, taking away precise controls in favor of a more floaty challenge. Some, however, float high above the rest.
A person more eloquent than me could argue Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the greatest platformer ever made. A person more stupid than me should be able to convince you it’s the greatest Donkey Kong game ever made. Retro Studios’ imaginative sequel to the game that revived the franchise is one of the standout titles on the Wii U, managing to 1-up its predecessor in nearly every way. From graphics to gameplay to music, Tropical Freeze excels. In respect to gameplay, the return of water levels, missing from DKC Returns, was a welcomed reintroduction for the series. Donkey Kong Country games have always been home to memorable water levels, and Irate Eight from Tropical Freeze just happens to be the best one ever made.
Amiss Abyss may be the more visually arresting level, but the challenge, urgency, and creativity of Irate Eight make it so much more dynamic. Featuring a cover of DKC2’s Lockjaw’s Saga, Irate Eight is a race for survival against the nefarious Squiddicus, returning from Donkey Kong Country Returns. There, it was the main obstacle in Stormy Shore. Here, it is one of many dangers you have to avoid, along with sinking spikes, mines, Mama Saws, Finleys, and Pufftups. The race to escape Squiddicus unwinds over three parts: the initial chase, dodging its tentacles as you swim towards safety and one final chase where it literally brings down the stage to stop you. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to stop writing this and go play that level again.
Irate Eight is a goddamn fantastic level and anybody who tries to argue it isn’t the absolute best water stage is nothing but a barnacle.
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