Of bananas and biceps.
[Note: New Play Control Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a Wii version of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat on the GameCube except for the Wii-mote-centric play control. The following is primarily a description and analysis of the Wii controls, written by Windy. Attached is the original review for the GameCube version of the game, written by Johnny Liu in 2005. The report card and grade is taken primarily from his review, but also considers Windy’s review on the new controls, given the context of video games in today’s market.]
There’s still something in us humans, some button, that when pushed, makes us revert to our basest, most primal selves. I think it’s the spleen. Whatever the organ or gland, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat with "New Play Control!" hits the spot. I dare you not to rawr after you beat the boss in Watermelon Kingdom.
[image1]The chest-beating motion you must employ on the tougher beasts encountered in Jungle Kingdom is the best feature in the New Play Control version. It gets you closer to that visceral feel we all secretly crave than the bongo peripheral of the original ever did. Unfortunately, other than that, the game devolves into a random button-pushing, remote-waving mush.
There is an intuitive disconnect with the control. Pushing the ‘A’ button makes Donkey Kong jump, while flicking the remote yields the ever useful sound wave attack. But that seems backwards. It’s all about evolution and conditioned response at this point: We have a history with the ‘A’ button, which is reserved for an action, and just like Pavlov’s dogs, we expect an action every time we set our paws upon it. Instead… we just jump a little. Because of this disconnect we are reduced to a frenzy of awkward movements instead of an efficient fluidity of motion. It’s all very muddled, adrenally speaking. (Cue frustrated grunt.)
Just like the original, this Wii revision has little replay value. The only thing that will keep you moving forward may be the chance to use some of Donkey Kong’s Jungle Buddies. There’s a bird and a flying squirrel that can be steered to catch lots of hard-to-reach bananas, a charging ram that can be ridden, and a great white that gets Donkey Kong under water. Some show up early in play; you have to work for the others.
New Play Control Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is fun for a moment, but it doesn’t last. Hand it over to your little brother when he’s got too much energy for you to handle, and give your pituitary gland some time off.
[Posted below is Johnny Liu’s review of the original Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for GameCube.]
[image2]Like a barrel hoisted from the heavens, the life of the infamous ape Donkey Kong has seen its share of highs and lows. No one will ever forget the dark December day when this would-be Kong lost his bananas and went on a violent spree through Westchester Construction Yard. Oh, the humanity!
After making off with his nemesis’ lady and putting a significant dent in the barrel manufacturing industry, Donkey Kong’s future as a brown stain on Mario’s shoe seemed all but certain. But in the next decade, he would parlay his negative fame into golden success. He had a break-out hit on the SNES, somehow gave birth to a son, and a few follow-ups later, the ape is almost as big a draw as the plumber.
But would the combination of Donkey Kong’s rough past and his newfound fame lead to a downward spiral of hookers and cocaine-infused bananas? Sadly, no. When we recently caught up with Donkey Kong, we were shocked to find an ape more Koko than King Kong. The reason? Bongo drums.
DK plays headliner once again in Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, a game that uses the bongo controller introduced in Donkey Konga as a rhythmic ape-guidance system. The bongos work like giant D-pad buttons: smacking the right bongo moves Donkey Kong to the right, smacking the left one moves him left, and smacking both bongos together makes the big monkey jump. Clapping orders him to attack.
Luckily, Jungle Beat isn’t just a simple case of running from left to right while collecting bananas thanks to some neat scoring tricks built into the gameplay. For example, instead of just jumping and grabbing those tasty ‘nanners, you can gain more points by clapping in mid-jump. Clapping is also how Donkey Kong interacts with his environment. He claps to hang onto birds, grab vines and basically do anything a big crazy monkey is supposed to do, minus throwing feces at the camera (we’re hoping that’s a code, though.
[image3]As Donkey Kong zips toward his goal while boosting his score and filling his coffers with fruity goodness, the various challenges recall the SNES platformer Donkey Kong Country. There are even animal riding stages in Jungle Beat, just like the ones found in its 16-bit predecessor.
Likewise, the best parts of Jungle Beat are the boss battles. Some fights pit Kong against a martial arts monkey, and these play a lot like Punch-Out. Figuring out how to block an attack and then come back with a flurry is a lot of fun.
In fact, ripping it up on a set of bongos is not too far removed from hitting a punching bag. It’s pretty funny how Donkey Kong’s violent side led him to music… we always thought it would lead to a suicide in prison. Despite its clever use, the bongo controller gameplay feels a little gimmicky. Your hands will quickly get tired of constantly slamming on the drums just to move the guy around, and slowly the whole experience gets less and less fun. Even if you ignore your aching, broken hands, the game keeps on serving up the same plate over and over again. The stages retread the same ideas pretty quickly and recycle a lot of content.
Jungle Beat is best played in short bursts; a quick game here and there keeps things fresh, especially since you can beat the whole shebang in an afternoon. The game tries to deliver some replay incentives with multiple banana collecting goals within each stage, but these aren’t compelling reasons to replay the game. Donkey Kong may never get sick of bananas, but you definitely will.
[image4]Visually, Jungle Beat won’t blow you away. It’s Donkey Kong Country with a fresh coat of paint. Rare doesn’t work for Nintendo anymore, but the designs and styles are the same; only the bosses really stand out thanks to their super-size. At any rate, it’s inoffensive.
For a game based on music, most of the fare is extremely forgettable. There are a couple snazzy jungle tunes, but it’s hard to hear much beyond your constant bongo-ing. BONG BONG BONG, all day long.
And don’t expect to bong with your buddies much, because there is no multiplayer at all in Jungle Beat. It’s a strange omission, but I guess two drummers is kind of redundant anyway. Right, Grateful Dead?
If you have unbreakable hands of steel or happen to spend part of your life as a touring percussionist, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat will surely provide plenty of fun. It uses the bongo drums in a creative fashion, connecting you to the experience in a whole new way, and is currently the only other thing to do with the bongos you got with Donkey Konga. Yet despite its innovation, the game gets old quickly and simply doesn’t have enough depth to warrant much replay, turning the once-proud ape into just another goofy monkey.