Depth in certainly not something I had expected to associate with a game that uses bongos as a controller, but I was more than pleasantly surprised after only a few minutes of playing Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. In retrospect, I am not that surprised, as Nintendo has typically done a great job of making games that are actually fun. Jungle Beat is no exception.
Initially playing the game, I felt a bit dumb, or rather, I felt really dumb. Being less than musically inclined, I had never touched a set of bongos. While the game really doesn’t have anything to do with music, the bongo controller is actually beautifully integrated. After five or ten minutes of gameplay, I felt right at home.
Gameplay, which is based around getting to the end of a side-scrolling lever, a-la Super Mario Brothers, is quite simple. It actually didn’t take too long to win the game. While that initial play through was pleasant, I wouldn’t call the gameplay particularly engaging or memorable, aside from the novelty controller. However, I went back to the first level to see how many bananas I could collect. You see, there are bananas placed throughout each level, and they are basically your score. The more you get the better you do. It doesn’t stop there.
There are boss battles. The last thing I ever expected from a game with bongos, was a boss battle, let alone quite a few of them. The fights with each boss are very creative, and require figuring out their weaknesses and careful timing. These bosses are big, bad, and fun. They aren’t too incredibly challenging, but they are a nice change of pace, and a ton of fun.
While collecting these bananas, you can do different moves like a giant back flip, or interact with your environment, like wall jumping for example. Each of these special moves starts a multiplier going. The multiplier applies to the bananas collected while your multiplier is still active. The multiplier resets once you make a normal landing. In this way, this game gets its depth. While there aren’t as many moves or as much versatility as Tony Hawk, I would liken getting in the “grove” in this game to a great Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater run. You have to get creative to get high scores.
Getting a high score, in turn, unlocks hidden levels, of which there are plenty. These are great, giving so much value and replayability to the game. There are hidden bosses as well. In order to unlock every level, you will have to master the art of using the multipliers in each level. To get help with this, be sure to watch the videos that will play each time you finish a level, as they will show you some creative combos to use.
The only moderate downfall to the game are the sound and graphics. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad, they are simply average. The musical score is on par with the Donkey Kong Country games for SNES, and the graphics are typical for a Gamecube title.
I have to say my hat is off to Nintendo, for yet another quality product that many were skeptical about. If you don’t give this game enough of a chance, you might not realize how much fun it is. But once you’re in it, you’ll be hooked. To check out a sample of the gameplay, visit the official Donky Kong: Jungle Beat. So if you’ve got a Gamecube, or even a Wii, be sure to check this gem out. Just remember your hands will be sore!