New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Review for Nintendo Wii

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Cover

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Review for Nintendo Wii

About four years ago, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was released for the Nintendo GameCube. At its core it was a semi-traditional 2D platformer that made use of an oddball control scheme. Due to the fact that you needed to use the GameCube’s bongo peripheral to control DK, the game didn’t do very well as far as sales go despite receiving a good amount of critical praise for its unique gameplay and feel.

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat screenshot

While I’ve been a bit skeptical of the idea of taking GameCube titles, adding motion controls, slapping a New Play Control! sticker on the box, and then selling it like it’s a different title, New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (NPC! DKJB) actually goes a long way towards legitimizing the NPC! label for me.

As I previously stated, the original Donkey Kong Jungle Beat utilized a bongo peripheral and it required players to tap one side to make DK move in that direction, slap both together to make him jump, and clap to cause a large shockwave to emanate from DK that damaged surrounding enemies and collected nearby bananas. This was a fairly neat way to control a game, but it had a tendency to make platforming feel needlessly inaccurate and difficult while also forcing the developers to compensate by making traversing levels and taking out enemies much easier to accomplish. The health system in the original DKJB even catered to the bongo controls, only taking away a few bananas whenever you got hit despite the fact that you would likely collect at least four hundred bananas during the course of every level.

With NPC! DKJB, somehow there are actually fewer motions involved in controlling the game than in the GameCube version. Now, instead of tapping to move DK, more precise and user-friendly analog stick controls have been implemented. Maneuvering about using the analog stick feels incredibly natural and far more accurate than trying to time bongo taps. Jumping is handled by the A button, which also seems to work better than slapping a pair of drums for less coordinated and rhythmically-challenged players. Motions aren’t entirely removed from NPC! DKJB, though, as shaking the Wii-mote and/or Nunchuk will control DK’s shockwave and punching attacks. However, unlike in the original version, DK’s shockwave attack will only go in whichever direction you are holding the analog stick instead of in every direction at once.

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat screenshot

This difference in attacks is just one of a few small tweaks that were made to the game because of the more accurate nature of the updated controls. Another noticeable change comes in NPC! DKJB’s new health system. Since you are much less likely to accidentally run into foes, instead of losing an insignificant amount of bananas upon contact, you’ll lose one of your three hearts. Players are able to earn more hearts while playing through levels and can even activate midlevel checkpoints to keep this health system from becoming frustrating, but this added challenge makes the game feel more compelling. However, boss battles will still make use of the banana health system but each strike taken during them will pilfer fairly sizeable bunches of the fruit from the total you’ve earned in the levels leading up to the showdown.

As with many DK titles, collecting bananas plays a large role in NPC! DKJB. Each level in the game is full of bananas, with hidden areas and menacing enemies around every corner providing even more of the classic Nintendo character’s favorite fruit. Just running into these bananas will add them to your total, but there are also a couple ways to make your counter moves much quicker. Tapping the A button while in the air and near bananas will cause DK to pluck them out of the air and net you bonuses for each one picked up in succession.

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat screenshot

Players will also find a pretty elaborate and enjoyable combo system in NPC! DKJB. For every move DK performs (ex: wall jumps, vine swings, attacks, flower spins, etc) without hitting the ground, he will increase his banana multiplier. This works really well and it is frequently possible to string together some very impressive combos that result in a healthy haul of bananas, since the multiplier only ends once you touch the ground. Besides functioning as your health when facing off against a boss, the bananas you collect in levels will unlock crests that are necessary for unlocking extra hidden levels that help to extend the life of this relatively short title.

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat screenshot

I believe that is really the only shortcoming of NPC! DKJB: it is a little too short. Just blazing through the game’s levels will probably only take around three to four hours, not counting the breaks you’ll take throughout to give your arms a much-needed rest. Playing skillfully and trying to collect all of the game’s crests and unlock all the hidden levels will probably double, perhaps triple depending on your skill level, the playtime, but it still feels a bit on the short side. This is probably due to the game being such an enjoyable experience. I mean, nobody ever complains about trips to the dentist’s office being too short, right?

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about this game is just how well the visuals hold up. While this title was made by the same team that developed the beautiful Super Mario Galaxy, it is hard to believe just how well it compares to most current Wii titles. In fact, due to the constant deluge of lazily developed shovelware constantly flooding the system, this four year-old port of a GameCube title manages to be among the most visually impressive titles on the Wii. Still, you can expect to find a vast array of visually diverse levels full of small but striking details, great-looking and well-animated characters, and the kind of charming weirdness (ex: a plant with a giant chicken head) you’d expect from a Nintendo platformer.

If you never got a chance to check out the original DKJB, then you should definitely play NPC! DKJB. However, longtime fans of the bongo smashing original may have issues adjusting to this new version, or may even find that they miss their old peripherals while playing. For me, though, I think the change in controls is for the best and should allow a much wider audience to check out and enjoy this masterful title. While it may just be a port of a four year-old GameCube title with some tweaks and new controls, it is definitely one of the best playing and looking platformers on the system.

It may be four years old, but it still looks great, even when compared to most current Wii titles. 4.1 Control
The new analog stick controls work rather well, although you may occasionally have a few issues of missed swing detection when slugging away on the game’s bosses. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
DK’s noises can get a tad annoying, but for the most part, the music and sound effects are great and fit the title perfectly. 4.2

Play Value
A little on the short side, but if you go for full completion, you’ll get some additional hours out of it. Either way, it is definitely great while it lasts.

4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • The Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers put Donkey Kong’s actions right in players’ hands. Players use buttons and motion controls to move through the game. When it comes time to box with bosses, players punch with both hands.
  • As Donkey Kong, players brave a jungle adventure by swinging, soaring, swimming and using acrobatic moves. But the goal isn’t to run through levels as quickly as possible – the real skill lies in stringing moves together to travel like a daredevil, touching the ground as little as possible.
  • The game’s imaginative worlds now have many areas partially redesigned to take full advantage of the new Wii controls. Newcomers will enjoy its fantastic jungles, dazzling caverns and wondrous seas, while fans of the original will discover fresh thrills as they take on the challenge of the new controls.

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