2½D: Tropical Freeze expands on what Returns did by adding curving paths and Camera Perspective Switch during segments like barrel cannon sequences. Certain Minecart Madness levels also involve jumping back and forth between parallel rails.
Blow You Away: The Snomad leader's horn blows the Kongs off their island before freezing it.
Bootstrapped Theme: The initial E3 2013 trailers and gameplay footage frequently used the Jungle Hijinx theme, DK Island Swing, with the implication that it would be used in the opening Lost Mangrove levels. But later footage revealed that the Lost Mangrove levels would instead feature a new piece of music, which seems to indicate that DK Island Swing was used more to hype up the fans. It's instead used in the secret K levels, unlocked by getting every KONG letter and puzzle piece in each world.
The Bus Came Back: Dixie Kong returns as the third playable character alongside DK, Diddy and Cranky. Funky Kong is also back to take over Cranky's previous role as the shopkeeper.
Call Back: The first level begins with the player having to shake the controller before the gameplay begins for real, just like in the first level of the previous game.
Combination Attack/Limit Break: The Kong Pow. Collecting bananas gradually fills a gauge on the HUD that, when full, allows the Kongs to transform all onscreen enemies into extra lives, recovery hearts, or Banana Coins. It takes two characters to pull off the move, though, so Donkey Kong is out of luck if he's by himself.
Fragile Speedster: Diddy Kong, who moves fast but is hard to control (especially underwater).
Lightning Bruiser: Dixie Kong, who can move fast (but at a controllable pace) and twirl in the air with her ponytails.
Mighty Glacier: Cranky Kong, who has not 1, or 2, but 3 attacks (not counting Goomba Stomping): his denture popgun (that functions like Diddy's), his roll, and his deadly Ground Pound attack with his cane that defeats almost all enemies and lets him hop on spikes. But he is also the slowest of the crew.
Continuity Nod: World 6, Donkey Kong Island, is filled with them for players of Returns.
Long Song, Short Scene: The famous Stickerbrush Symphony theme returns, but only plays at the beginning and end of a Rocket Barrel stage.
Mercy Mode: Averted. The Super Guide from the previous game is absent here because some gamers felt insulted and complained it was included despite the fact it was only put in for younger games and was optional.
No Flow in CGI: According to producer Kensuke Tanabe, the developers decided to take advantage of the Wii U's power by averting this, despite highly increased development time. The E3 2013 reveal of the game saw Satoru Iwata making a special point of calling attention to DK's new fur physics.
Ominous Owl: Skowl, the boss of Autumn Heights, as well the Owl Snomads.
One-Hit-Point Wonder: Subverted with the Rocket Barrel and Minecart, which now take two hits (three if you bought a Crash Guard), and can also be healed if you pick up a heart.
Your character in Hard Mode.
Our Dragons Are Different: The leader of the Snomads uses a magic horn to summon / control a gigantic ice dragon. The dragon's icy breath freezes over Donkey Kong Island, turning it into a more suitable home for the Snomads.
Scenery Porn: The backgrounds in the first game were pretty darn good and the extra power the Wii U provides just makes them look even better.
Shout-Out: To New Super Mario Bros. U, from Donkey Kong's brother franchise and released a year earlier. The plot of Tropical Freeze involves the heroes getting thrown from their home and spending most of the rest of the time venturing back to DK Island.
Cranky Kong's gameplay style involves using his cane as a pogo stick. Sound familiar?
One of the savannah levels takes place in the middle of a parade full of papercraft animals extremely similar to those from The Lion King Broadway musical. The music is also very Lion King-esque.
Threatening Shark: Sharks return from the previous game, but with the addition of swimming, they will now pursue Kongs if they are in the same body of water.
Turns Red: All the bosses do this, but Bashmaster literally turns purple as he is closer to defeat. Justified because you keep dunking him in the purple juice every time you hit him.
Variable Mix: A more relaxing, atmospheric version of a level's theme will play when you are underwater. In addition, a large amount of stages add more instruments as you go along.
World 2-6 (Wing Ding) has two versions of the track for when you're on the ground and zip-lining along the vines.
World 4-4 (Irate Eight) has four tracks plaything throughout the level. One at the beginning, one while underwater, a remix of Lockjaw's Locker, and a tense theme played while being chased by the octopus.