GAMECUBE REVIEW: DONKEY KONG: JUNGLE BEAT

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a lot of fun but that fun is short lived. It's so short and so easy that an average gamer should have no trouble getting through it in a few hours - or at the very least a day.

Jungle Beat is pure platforming arcade fun. It utilizes bongo drums as a control device; the same drums that were created for Donkey Konga. It's possible to play the game without them but it's nowhere near as fun.

Jungle Beat isn't a rhythm game. You don't have to match beats to songs despite the word "beat" in the title. The drums are used to activate movement on the part of the character. Hit the right drum and Donkey Kong's right leg will step forward. Hit the left drum to move his left leg forward. Hit both drums alternately to simulate walking. It works really well but it does get tiring after a while especially in the wrist.

You don't have to be a drummer to get the hang of the controls but you'll definitely need some coordination. To make Donkey Kong run for instance you'll have to play a drum roll. That requires a little technique so that you can move him smoothly without hitting the same drum a few times in a row or hitting both of them at the same time which causes him to jump. Fortunately most of the levels are laid out in such a way that it's not a big deal if you access the wrong move.

More moves can be accessed by tapping the sides of the bongos or clapping. Clapping will allow DK to interact with objects and characters in the environment. He can pick up bananas, swing on vines and grab a ride on the back of various large critters. He can even do backflips and let out a devastating yell, the sound waves of which can topple enemies.

Collecting bananas will increase your health and score. These are called beats. If you take a hit from an enemy you'll lose some of these beats. Lose them all and you'll have to start the level over. Considering how easy the game is this isn't much of a worry. Even the bosses are easy, and they are repeated. You'll face some of the same bosses three times throughout the game. Considering how short the game is that's really cheap.

The only form of replay value is attempting to get the Gold crests awarded at the end of each levels for having a specified quantity of bananas collected. If you work really hard you'll probably get the Silver crest but you'll really have to hunt and stay out of trouble to get the Gold. It's not much of an incentive for me to replay the game a couple of times but I suppose some players will want to prove themselves, especially if they've purchased the bongos specifically for this game. Keep in mind that if you purchased these bongos you can rent Donkey Konga and get more use out of them. I would also recommend that if you already have the bongos from that version you should just rent this one and save some money. It's so short you certainly won't get your money's worth if you buy it.

Jungle Beat is a clean looking game, maybe a little sterile looking. The jungle environments are a little too sparse in places. Some of the graphics are too angular making the jungle appear as though it's been constructed from origami but at least there are no jaggies, slowdown or clipping. The giant creatures that DK runs into are well rendered and smoothly animated. If you're not fighting or avoiding them you can sometimes jump on their back and go for a ride. The level designs are imaginative but a little more variation would be welcome. The tunes are cheery and the sound effects are right on the money but the pounding of the drums can get on your nerves after a while.

Some may consider this a novelty but the gameplay is really tightly aligned with the bongo drums. To play it without the drums would be like going to a 3D movie without the 3D glasses.

Preview by Gooseberry

I wasn't super impressed with Donkey Konga but I did play the hell out of Jungle Beat last year at E3 and my only regret is that I haven't been able to get my hands on it since. That is, until next week when its finally released.

Uniquely controlling the action via the DK Bongos Controller, you'll wham, bam and clap your way through incredibly beautiful landscapes and huge boss battles that threaten to shatter the borders of your TV screen. It's no wonder that an early version of this game was the surprise hit of last year's E3 trade show. The final version is even more stunning.

This game isn't like rhythm masterpiece Donkey Konga, which also uses the Bongos controller. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat isn't a musical game at all. It's an exciting, high-energy action game that uses the DK Bongos controller in a completely unique way. (Two versions of the game will be available: one with the DK Bongos controller, and one without, for those of you who already have Donkey Konga.)

Many Moves

Free from buttons, we took Donkey Kong on a relaxing stroll by tapping on the right bongo. Relaxing, that is, until about two seconds into the mountain level. DK jumped on the back of his pal Hoofer, a wildebeest, and a massive snowball followed. The faster we tapped the right bongo, the faster DK and his mount went. But the snowball didn't slow down. So we tapped faster and faster until we gave the snowball the slip. Later in the level, we again were chased, this time by a legless green creature that swam through the snowball like a fish. However, we trailed the snowball this time. If we went too fast, we got crushed by the snowball. Too slow and we were snack food. If we clapped, though, we sent out shockwaves that gradually pulverized the snowball.

In the more traditional side-scrolling level, Donkey Kong moved right when we tapped right on the bongo. He moved left when we tapped left, and he jumped when we simultaneously tapped both bongos. When we clapped our hands, DK either beat his chest or threw a punch, depending on the situation.

For such a big ape, Donkey Kong spends more time airborne than an astronaut. He trampolines off high-wires, gets flung into the air by monkey buddies, swings from vines, grabs hold of and commandeers parachutes through windstorms. The levels dedicated to getting DK aloft give you a giddy, lighter-than-air feel.

One of the very cool things about this game is that a big Donkey Kong is almost always in the foreground. This exquisitely detailed, fully animated DK shows exactly what he's doing on his hair-raising adventures -- beating his chest, grinning mischievously, even free-falling, with his famous tie flapping in the wind. It's a great innovation that makes you feel like you're the famous gorilla.

The different jumping combos you performed with different bongo taps were very slick. Donkey Kong can sail through the air or jump straight up and pound down on an opponent. He can climb chasms by leaping from wall to wall with alternating left and right taps. Simultaneous taps make him swing from vine to vine.

Drums taps and claps also make flitting fairies suddenly congregate into steps and tiny mushrooms spring up into giant platforms that DK can then climb. Swim through sunken galleons, hurtle through volcano cones and, in short, bash your way through many more exotic levels, all beautifully imagined by master game artists.

Bosses

They're HUGE. It’s surprising how naturally the bongos fit into a traditional fighting scheme. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? You can show a lot of finesse, ducking and feinting, and then unleash a massive, beast-battering blow against a giant ape, a monstrous boar-like creature, and a bird the size of east Texas.

Officially a one-player game, Jungle Beat invites manic cooperation. While you pound the bongos, have a buddy clap. By linking together moves to build up combo strings, you can collect more and more bananas. The more you collect, the better; you can earn bronze, silver, gold, and platinum crests on each level, and collecting crests will open up more and more levels. Of course, you'll want to grab crests solo. But there's something about a side-scrolling jam session that's just way cool.

Features

  • Unique controls via the DK Bongos Controller
  • Stunning graphics
  • In classic DK style, get help from many animal friends
  • Elaborate combo system maximizes playability
  • You simply must experience the one-of-a-kind thrill of experiencing Jungle Beat for yourself! Fortunately, it's a snap to search for a store where you can play
  • Donkey Kong Jungle Beat with the DK Bongos Controller.


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System: GameCube
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Release: March 2005
Players: 1
Review by Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
1.5