Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat

Could be the best reason to own a set of taruconga (aka DK Bongos).


The Lowdown

Pros: An excellent platform game, that's generally fun to play with the DK bongos.

Cons: Some people will be turned off by the innovative use of the bongos and the game is as short as Katamari Damacy.

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Nintendo's claim to fame in 2004 is reinventing the way people play games. Mario Party 6 has a microphone packed in it. The new Nintendo DS has a two screens, one of them being a touch screen and much earlier in the year they released the bongo bashing game Donkey Konga. The title which had a number of changes when it was localized in America, introduced gamers to the DK Bongos. However in Nintendo's creative team, this new peripheral isn't limited to rhythm games. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is the first game to use the DK Bongos as a platform game controller.

Why bongos instead of a regular controller for a platform game? Who knows. Anyone who's played the game using the bongos will tell you the system works. In fact the game is more fun playing with the bongos. You move Donkey Kong by hitting either the right or left drum. Hitting the right drum moves him right and of course hitting the left drum moves him left. Hitting both drums at the same time causes Donkey Kong to jump and if you clap Donkey Kong will do a monkey war cry. Clapping also causes Donkey Kong to grab whatever is near by him like bananas. The controls may take some people a little time to learn, but Nintendo has a clever tutorial at the beginning of the game to show you the ropes. Instructed by tiny white monkeys Donkey Kong is shown how to move, jump and attack in a matter of minutes. On screen indicators of what drum to hit also appear, which makes this game easy to learn even if you don't understand Japanese.

The levels in Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat are broken down into different kinds of fruit. You can freely select whatever level you want to play with no wait or extra traveling. The arcade style level select suits this innovative title well. At first you can only enter the Banana world. To play other levels you need to earn medals and these medals can be gained by picking up bananas. Each stage whether it be Watermelon Paradise or Pineapple Island is packed with the yellow monkey treat.

There are plenty of bananas to grab just by walking through the level, but you won't be taking a casual stroll in this title. Nintendo has some excellent level design to make sure you'll be bouncing from wall to wall, being thrown from monkey to monkey and gliding on the back of a colorful parrot. Most of these challenges require precise timing of your claps and drum slaps. For instance when you're wall jumping you need to hit both drums at the same time to successfully bounce to the next wall. Another example is when you're trying to ride a giant snow ram. You need to hit the drums rapidly to move at top speed and time your jump to reach the next ledge. Collecting bananas at the same time can be take a little more practice because you will need to cleverly time claps when Donkey Kong is surrounded by banana bunches. It might sound a bit confusing on paper, but after a couple minutes of playing the game you'll know what to do.

Each stage is broken into three parts. The first two areas are platform levels that will take you inside the center of a jungle, to the bottom of the ocean or in an artic tundra. It's not just the scenery that changes in each setting, it's some tweaks in gameplay. When you're in the jungle you'll be swinging on vines and have help from other monkeys to bring you to higher areas. When you're deep underwater you will have to control Donkey Kong's swim strokes and seek aid from a giant whale. Diversity in the levels keeps the game fresh. After two of the platform areas Donkey Kong will face a boss.

The first boss battle you'll face is against another giant monkey. You have to dodge punches by clapping and attack back by hitting the drums. If the monkey hits you you'll lose precious bananas. Another boss battle has Donkey Kong against a camouflaged ant eater. Here Donkey Kong will need to grab a pineapple and chuck it towards the anteater's nose to plug it shut. Most of the boss battles require gamers to learn simple patterns of when to dodge and when to attack. Even with boss battles an average stage lasts 5 minutes or so. The whole game can be completed in a few hours if you ignore getting all of the medals. Obtaining all of the medals might make the challenge last a couple more hours. While it isn't a long game, most people will want to play it again just because of it's pick up and play nature.

Nintendo has done a great job with the game's graphics. Donkey Kong has fuzzy fur and plenty of speechless reactions. He's well animated on the bottom left hand corner of the screen, but in the world he's drawn to scale. This makes him and many other things in the world look really tiny and almost devoid of detail. It isn't until the game zooms into the action where you can see the smoothly drawn animals and the excellent critter design. You will see all types of animals roaming around in Jungle Beat. Tiny mosquitoes, huge birds and plenty of puffy blowfish await you. The scenery in the game is equally as impressive. Lush environments with plenty of depth and detail make the world come alive.

If you own a Gamecube check out Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat. It is defiantly one of the more innovative titles on the system and it is a blast to play. If you are turned off by using the taruconga you can play with the controller, but it just isn't as fun. This unique mix of playing with the bongo's smooth control is one of the keys to Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat's success.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2

There isn't too much Japanese that you are required to know to complete the game. The menus are simple to navigate through with a little trial and error. Some of the in game tips are in Japanese, which you may miss out on.

US Bound?

Nintendo has this game scheduled for release on March 14, 2005.

Overall

An extremely entertaining game from start to finish with enough creativity to make this game stand out from other platform titles.