Review by ricker05
"Platformer fans rejoice, for the day of prophecy is at hand"
Once upon a time, there was a land of wondrous beauty. In that land, strange characters gathered in a grouping of unrivaled power. Apes, plumbers, hedgehogs, and saddle-laden dinosaurs...all of them came together and jumped. From platform to platform. Over the land and through the air, the sea. They ran ever rightward, collecting items of dubious import and bouncing on the heads of all who would dare to oppose them. And then they died. And it was foretold that someday a savior would arise like a phoenix from the ashes and it would be glorious.
This game is that savior. If you have ever claimed to be a friend of old school platformers, then your day has come at last.
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is an anomaly to say the least. To my knowledge, there is no other platformer that is controlled by a music based peripheral. This will be the first thing you must accept before enjoying the game. I have no doubts that many people will be left at the door because they simply can not wrap their minds around the concept. For those of you with more open minds, you will probably find that the bongos control Donkey Kong far better than you could imagine. From two buttons, Nintendo Tokyo has managed to give DK the ability to run, jump, wall jump, backflip, ground pound, and do some sort of triple axel while sliding on ice. In addition, the development group made excellent use of the clap sensor to give DK context sensitive abilities. Clapping makes DK grab bananas or hit enemies or slap the ground, all depending on where you are. A green ring shows the shockwave effect of your clap and the red one shows the range of DK's reach. The rings are not only ingenious but look stylish as well.
As an added bonus, the game sports a surprisingly deep combo system that adds multiple layers of complexity. Each different type of aerial move that you do adds to the combo meter and increases the number of beats you get. Just running into a single banana will get you one beat for your meter in the upper left hand corner. If you grab that banana by clapping, you get two beats. If you do a backflip onto a wall, wall jump off, do a ground pound in the air, and clap to grab the banana on your way down, now you get five beats. Grabbing more bananas at once also nets you more beats than grabbing them each separately. After you beat a kingdom, the game will show you clip of some neat trick. Watch the videos and I guarantee you will have a moment where the lightbulb clicks on and you suddenly look at the game in a totally different way. You will see all the combo possibilities.
It's hard to explain precisely how good the level design is, but I'll try anyway. There is plenty of variety, as you would expect from a platformer. It sports the fire/ice/jungle/water staples. Plenty of secret areas and little tricks are present. More importantly, there are several points in the game where you can hold a combo for most or all of a level. This is where the level design really shines. Everything flows together perfectly in these levels. The game starts chanting (Go! Go! Go!) on the beat of the music and you keep racking up the number of beats you have. Any slip up will cause you to lose everything you have. It's intense and the first time you slide down a zip line then get grabbed by a monkey who tosses you to a wall where you wall jump to a vine that lets you swing to a bird you flies you away, you will be happy.
The character models are nicely stylized both in coloration and actual design. The environments are nicely detailed. The game makes excellent use of some cel-shading effects to give an extra flare to some events such as enemy deaths. The game does not house the best graphics you will ever see but it looks like you would expect it to look: vibrant.
It's midi all the way and that certainly will be a problem for some people. I am not one of them. Midi music lends a flavor all its own to the experience of videogames and the music in this game is excellent regardless. There are a couple of nods to music from Donkey Kong Country, but in general the music is all new. The themes are catchy and recall a better time when yuppies were the order of the day.
Jungle Beat also makes good use of context sensitive sound effects and music to further enhance the musical aspect of the platforming experience. A note or two will be added to the music every time DK jumps, for example. Rather than just having the same note every time, the sounds will be slightly different every time so that they line up well with the music. When DK swings on a vine, the game adds in ascending and descending scales. There are plenty more examples but just take my word that it's all done very sharply.
Donkey Kong wants to do something...possible for some reason. If you're looking for a story, I recommend The Malazapan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This game probably will not satisfy your needs in this department.
The game is not that long. You can probably sprint through it in 5 hours or so. But to paraphrase Tycho from Penny-Arcade, you will beat the game quickly and crown yourself king, but you will be king of nothing. This game keeps track of the best times through each kingdom. It also keeps track of the best scores for each kingdom. Mastering the combo system and maximizing your score is an enormous part of this game and if you are the kind of gamer who is unwilling to do that, then move along. This game will not bring you joy. For everyone else...it takes 1200 beats to get platinum on each level. There are people who have gotten 3000+ on several levels. If hearing that suddenly gave you the urge to master this game like none other so that you may bathe in the glory of those beneath you, I highly recommend this game. And some valium.
Overall: 9.6/10 (Marked down for length)
If you're bothering to read this, I figure it's because you hate me, love me, or are interested in buying this game. If it's one of the first one, know that if you strike me down I will become more possible than you can possibly imagine. If it's the second one, I'm flattered but you're not my type unless you're a woman. If it's the last one, buy the game. You can beat me up in an alley later if you think it's been a waste of money, but I have a sneaking suspicion you'll probably enjoy it. This is the game platforming fans have been waiting for. Ignore the fact that it uses bongos for controls. Ignore the fact that it has nothing to do with either the Donkey Kong series or Donkey Kong Country series. This game is fresh and original. This game is innovative. This game is good. Buy it now.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/28/05
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