Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is arguably the first major Nintendo console release in 2014. Other critics have justifiably gushed over the games stunning visuals and punishing, yet fun gameplay, but from the standpoint of game accessibility DKC:TF represents a game that most disabled gamers should probably just avoid.
When it comes to visual accessibility, the core gameplay of Donkey Kong Country doesn’t pose many barriers. Although I did only see a limited slice due to fine motor barriers, it’s safe to say that most visually disabled players will be able to get some form of enjoyment out of Donkey Kong Country, but they can expect to miss out on a lion’s share of the fun. Because Donkey Kong Country sticks to its roots and is about finding hidden areas and items, players will have to look for fine details that can be easily missed, making it clear that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze may not be the best choice for those with visual disabilities. For example, the roots that Donkey Kong must pull on in many levels to open doors and expose hidden coins can blend into the background, making them difficult to see on a fast paced play through of a level. Those who do play it can expect limited success, but won’t get full enjoyment out of the game without the help of a non-disabled assistant. The only type of visual disability that won’t affect the enjoyment of the game is color blindness. In my limited play span, there was nothing that relied solely on color.
The real problem arises for gamers with fine motor disabilities. Unfortunately, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is practically unplayable if you have any kind of problem with your hands or fingers. Even though players can use a standard Wiimote, a Wiimote and nun chuck, the gamepad, or a pro controller to play, the problems are more integral to the game than simply the physical interface. For example, the controls are incredibly soft, and Donkey Kong has the tendency to keep moving for several steps even after the player has taken their hands off of the joystick. To make matters worse, the controller customization that does exist within the game is inadequate, only allowing players to switch between the joystick and the d-pad as well as reversing the functions for the triggers and the X and Y buttons. As a result, it can be incredibly hard to establish a rhythm of movement in DKC:TF, which can be hard enough for disabled gamers even when a platformer is reasonably accessible, but is downright impossible given some of the bizarre physics seen in this game. Beyond that, the game is extremely unforgiving. Unlike the new Mario franchise, there is very little help for poorly performing gamers. Occasionally, Funky Kong will pop up and give you a hand full of extra lives if you’ve been struggling, but this is not enough in a game where it is easy to lose three or four lives on a single difficult jump sequence. And while it is true that players can use coins they collect to purchase extra lives, the issue there is that you have to be able to progress through the levels in order to keep the coins that you collect.
The good news is that for audio impaired gamers, the game seems to be completely barrier free. There is no dialogue of any kind at all, and while the music adds to the experience, it is not integral and it seems like hearing impaired gamers will get full enjoyment out of this title. However, because I was stymied in my attempt to review the game due to fine motor barriers, it is not certain whether the game is completely barrier free on this level.
It would be unfair to say that Donkey Kong Country is completely inaccessible for everyone, in fact gamers with auditory disabilities should definitely check out this title, but for gamers with visual impairments, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze best represents an incomplete experience, while for fine motor impaired gamers the game is utterly inaccessible.
Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: Wii U
ESRB Rating: E
GameInformer Score: 9.25
-Nothing relies on color
-Players can progress through large portions of the game without the ability to see fine detail
– Certain levels will require the ability to see fine detail to progress
– Limited controller customization
– Inadequate controller customization
-Nothing in the game relies on sound or the ability to hear
This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.