Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Review by wayne_steed
"The beating of your life!"
Do you remember when they used to make good, classic Donkey Kong games? You know, the side-scrolling kind? With the release of the original Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Kongo Jungle was the place to be. Two characters, platforming goodness, plenty o' stages, good graphics (for the time)-- the game was a prime example of what your average layman's DK fix ought to be.
And then, the apocalypse hit: Donkey Kong 64 was released for the (surprise!) Nintendo 64. It. Was. Awful. Rare further cemented its reputation as the collect-a-thon tyrant of the gaming world. And then, there were the coconut guns. Sweet mother of King K. Rool, they got their guns in our Donkey Kong! We got our Donkey Kong in their guns! Unfun platforming combined with terrible graphics and an annoying layer of repetitiveness to create one of the most painful gaming experiences that I have ever played. My N64 needed a little dusting anyway, but I would rather that said reason was Star Fox 64, as opposed to this monster of a bad game.
After its first abysmal 3D outing, Nintendo wisely took over the big ape. However, it seemed like he would never be able to truly express himself in 3D. He appeared in the two Super Smash Bros. titles, as well as the less-than-stellar rhythm game Donkey Konga, but it just wasn't the same.
Then, some soul (who I am eternally grateful to) figured out a new, exciting way to return DK to his side-scrolling roots while still maintaining that killer originality and fun. He/She figured that the DK Bongos, the drums that controlled Donkey Konga, could be used as the controller for not just a music game, but a platformer, too.
The result of his/her clever thinking? Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. And this review will be your guide into this brave new world controlled via drums and clapping.
The controls, while wildly simple, are impressive and fun to use. Simply tap the left or right bongo to make DK move to the left or right, tap them quickly and repeatedly to make him run, and hit them both to make him jump. Clapping will allow DK to pound his chest, clap to stun enemies, or grab anything with in reach, such as a small enemy or bunch of bananas. And don't worry; if you get tired of clapping, just tap the rings around the barrels that make up the bongos to activate the Clap Sensor. You can play it via a controller, but what fun is that? You have to repeatedly jam the Control Stick to the right or left to move, which is a deadly inconvenience. Besides, it's more fun to use the bongos, in my opinion.
Your main objective in DKJB is to become king of the jungle. Naturally, you must venture to all the kingdoms in said jungle and challenge their kings for dominance of their territories. And what kingdoms they are! You will find yourself drumming and clapping your way to victory in each of the stages, which are both original and exciting to play.
Your health is represented by the number of beats you have. These beats can be earned in many ways, the most general and frequent of which is banana collection. You can also earn beats by participating in minigames peppered throughout each stage, such as long-jumping or racing. These beats represent not only your health, but your score, as well, so steer clear of hazards! There is also the possibility of earning beats through a high combo score. There are many combo moves you can perform, too, such as swinging on a vine, jumping from wall to wall like Super Mario, or pounding the ground in mid-jump. More combos equal more beats, and I just know you want those!
At the end of each kingdom, you face the head honcho: the king. This royal power can be a giant bird, another gorilla, or even a giant mechanical elephant! For the most part, the controls do not change during the boss battles, but I especially enjoy the gorilla vs. gorilla duels, which play out like boxing matches. You simply press the left and right bongos to use your left and right fists, and clapping will allow you to dodge any punch coming your way-- that is, if you're quick enough.
At the end of each kingdom, your beats, in the form of bananas, are counted up and fill a large, hollow tree. The higher the pile of bananas, the better chance you have of earning a crest. The more crests you garner, the more kingdoms will be accessible to you. And the presence of four types of crests-- bronze, silver, gold, and platinum-- will have you replaying those levels for higher scores. Also, the entertaining Try This! videos (which play out like a projector-run movie) show you some neat opportunities to get better scores in the future.
In my personal opinion, graphics do not make the game, but I think that these graphics are very good for the Nintendo GameCube. You can see the enemies, environment, and DK himself all jump out at you in living color. There is no trace of slowdown that I have noticed, and the details are painstaking. You can see each individual hair on DK, which is very good, considering that the GameCube is the weakest of the three consoles in terms of graphical power.
The sound is very good, as well. The brilliant tunes throughout the stages (including a remix of the classic DK theme) had me hummin' along as I clapped and hit along. The background music, while almost omnipresent, never got in the way of the fun, and, in some cases, actually amplified it. From the quick, almost desperate melodies of a boss battle to the quiet drums of the deep jungles, the music always fits the situation (and thank the Lord Himself that they didn't put in that awful, awful DK Rap from Super Smash Bros. Melee!). You can also hear a drum-beat each time you hit a bongo, but that's not too big of a problem.
There are a few mistakes that prevent this from being a perfect masterwork, however, the most glaring one being the very low difficulty level. I was able to finish the first four kingdoms, having never played the game before, in half an hour. That's right, it took me thirty minutes to clear four kingdoms, which amounts to roughly seven and a half minutes per kingdom. Also, the storyline is virtually nonexistent, but then again, the big ape has never really had super-plots in his games. Besides, the fun of the game itself offsets these minor issues.
Overall, this game is one of the most innovative you'll play this side of the Wii. Sadly, DKJB didn't sell very well. In fact, I got a set of bongos and the game-- completely new-- for just $9.99. With luck, more people will read this review and buy this game, so it can get the respect it deserves (as well as a sequel for the Wii. I don't know how they'd work in motion sensitivity, though).
Enjoy yourself, and keep poundin' away, brother!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/17/07
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