Review by SilviteReign
"An innovative take that ultimately fails to capture the magic of its predecessors."
If you're like me, and have/had been waiting for this game anxiously for a long time, I suggest you hold on a minute and listen to what I have to say.
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat has been marketed as a fun, simple, and intuitive platformer that uses the Donkey Konga bongos as the controller. You can use a normal controller to control Nintendo's great ape, but we'll cover that later.
As I said before, this game is a side-scrolling platformer, much like the Donkey Kong Country series. You only get to control Donkey Kong, however, and he's also the only true Kong that ever makes an appearance in the game.
You get a short little tutorial your first time playing the game. It lays out the fundamentals of the controls: Hit the right bongo drum repeatedly to move right; the left repeatedly to move left; hit both at once to jump; clap (literally) to make Donkey Kong clap, sending out a shockwave in all directions and allowing him to grab bananas that are close to him. The controls are indeed simple, and even someone who's never used the bongos before should catch on quickly. The response of the bongos is pretty good, and I haven't heard of anyone complaining the microphone not being sensitive enough (Tip: I, and many other people, have found hitting the side of the bongo much more efficient than actually clapping, take your pick). Now, you can use whatever controller you might have to control the game, but trust me, you're much better off not even bothering. If you truly must try it, the control explanation is at the beginning of the instruction booklet. My biggest problem with the controls, however, is that for some reason the move and clap functions don't seem to work simultaneously, which can be a serious nuisance in certain parts of the game where you find yourself trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible and have to slow down to clap.
Each level is laid out in the same basic way. Each kingdom has two levels that you must complete, followed up by a boss. Each boss has a unique weakness and/or special way of defeating him that you must figure out and exploit before your health runs out. Your health is represented by the number of bananas you collect in the two levels beforehand and the bonus round of sorts right before each boss where you have to wail on the drums as fast as you possibly can. After you complete each kingdom, you receive medals based on how many bananas you managed to collect, which help to unlock new kingdoms.
There's also a not-too-complicated combo system implemented in the game, in which for every jump DK makes (without landing on the ground), the number of stars around his head increases by one. When you collect bananas, the number usually collected multiplies by that number. In some levels, it's the only way you'll ever manage to get all the medals.
You do have your animal friends who can help you collect bananas and advance to the next parts of the levels, but other than that they're not really an integral part of completing the game as they were in the Donkey Kong Country games.
The only real problem with the gameplay is that it can get repetitive. There's not much diversity in terms of baddies, and even the bosses just reoccur over and over again (tougher, of course). It's not a particularly hard game either, but more on that later.
Another problem is the fact that DK is usually relatively small on-screen. They try to make up for this by putting a magnified version of him in the bottom left corner of the screen that mimics what your Kong is doing, but it's more annoying than anything else.
There's no doubt that the graphics are one of the strengths of this game. Everything is beautifully rendered, it runs at 60 frames per second, and everything is just really well done. There's nice attention to detail on the character models, but, aside from the boss battles and the super-sized version of DK, you really can't see all that much of it. Aside from that, everything looks great.
Unlike the graphics, sound isn't one of the strong points of this game. It's not bad, per say, it just doesn't stand out. From what I can tell, the sound is mostly midi and remixes of the old Donkey Kong games. It adds for a bit of a nostalgic touch for those looking to relive those days of playing Donkey Kong Country for hours on end. The music fits the environments rather well, although the sounds effects almost sound like a mix of Wind Waker and Looney Toons. No real complaints here, but there's definitely much room for improvement.
Here we see the first signs of the major flaw of this game: Its shallowness. Put simply, there is no story. No OmG leik the lizard man stole my bananas or Oh noes, he kidnapped my friend! The only hint of story there is comes from the instruction booklet, which says Pound anything that gets in DK's way as he conquers the kingdoms and becomes the king of the jungle lands!!! Donkey Kong, conquer, king of jungle lands? This doesn't sound like the blubbering idiot I know and love!
There's also no feeling that you're part of something bigger either. There's no world to explore. Which kingdom you play through is determined by choosing from the ones you've unlocked from a simple menu screen. When you do unlock a new level, the game simply scrolls to the appropriate part of the menu and inserts the option into the menu.
The game is extremely short and extremely easy, and re-playability is the only way you'll ever get your money's worth out of this game. Frankly, because the game was so shallow, I really felt no desire to go back and play the game again and/or collect all the medals available, save for a few levels I found to be very fun. I've heard many claims that people have replayed the game simply because of its simple nature and fun factor. So if you're one of the people that enjoys the kind of game that Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is, you're sure to find some reason to play it again.
If there's anything that needs to be clarified, it's that this game is not Donkey Kong Country, and that's perhaps this game's ultimate strength and weakness at the same time. The game was no doubt created to deliver a refreshing experience in an age of gaming where true innovation is rare. But it simply does not have enough of the elements that those original games had to give the player that sense of satisfaction, and even enjoyment. There's no personality what-so-ever to Jungle Beat's DK, and the lack of supporting characters (the tiny monkeys in the background don't count) combine to take away any reason to care about the characters on screen.
Rent or Buy?
If you're looking to get the most out of those Donkey Konga bongos you spent all that extra money on, you might want to check this out. If you don't have the bongos, definitely find a way to check this out before you buy it.
Either way, if you want to check this game out, I suggest a rental to start off with. I doubt anyone wants to feel as though they wasted $40 (or $60 if you bought the bongos as well) on a game they'll play for 6 hours max and never again along with an extremely large peripheral sitting in the closet collecting dust. Unfortunately, this is what happened to me. Perhaps I expected too much when everyone either didn't expect much at all or just didn't know what to expect.
Either way, in the words of many a person, That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/03/05
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