All reviews

The game Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, like so many Nintendo first party titles during the Gamecube/Wii era (they gave Wario his own world?), is utterly bizarre in the best possible way. It may, in fact, be the most compellingly innovative 2D platformer of the entire 2000s. However, it also manages to represent the worst of the Gamecube/Wii era: namely, requiring an expensive peripheral that was only otherwise used for a few mediocre rhythm games, and being so easy that dying in it is the real challenge. However, the game manages turn these weaknesses into strength.

First off, I'll address the use of bongos for controls, I feel, works better than a D-pad would for this type of game. The game increases your speed depending on how fast you pound those bongos, with fast frenzied pounding being required to run. Of course, true to the nature of the instrument, holding on the bongos does nothing, so this game is not recommended for those who can't absolutely beat up a pair of fake drums. Still, I feel the fact that each of the buttons is absolutely massive makes it easier to use this control scheme; I find double tap inputs unpleasant in, for instance, Kirby games, but they're easy here. Additionally, attacking is done by clapping near the controller's microphone, or making any sort of loud noise. This leads to an interesting challenge (as you can't attack and move at the same time without destroying) which is unfortunately lost with any emulated setup. There are also more advanced moves: backflips, ground pounds, and wall jumps, but I'll get to those later. I think the control scheme is best in the combat, where bongo pounds your punches, and you have to alternate left and right bongos in order to beat up an enemy, even after you've attacked them with your clap.

This action may seem superfluous, but it leads me to my next point: the controls are ideal for a child in a pre-Wii era, which is probably what the developers intended. I'm going to level with you: when I was around 4 or 5, this was favorite childhood game. I could never do well on most levels, and even was so bad as to fail to clear most of them somehow, but my three-year old brother was better at collecting bananas, and was able to reach and defeat the game's final boss. The simple control scheme increases its accessibility to young children, and the frantic movements required to control the game even more so. If a three year old is capable of getting good at the game, that stands as proof of both the controls' elegance and their sheer fun factor.

The second concern is the game's lack of difficulty. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat prevents the player from dying, yes, but only because it's laser-focused on its combos. While other games with a scoring system have both getting to the end of the level and getting a high rank as twin goals, like in Viewtiful Joe, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat has only the ranks. There are 4: the bronze rank, the silver rank, the gold rank, and the hidden platinum rank, which often requires you to get a combo with an 8x or more multipliers. It's not that hard to get all golds, but scoring all platinums is about as hard as 100-percenting a mario game: it's a pretty difficult challenge within a pretty easy game. If you mess up your combo, you may have to restart the level, which combined the movement gives the game the same delightful of a Tony Hawk title.

Maintaining your combo is essentially a game of "the floor is lava:" touching the floor gets rid of your multiplier and grants you all the points, or beats, you collected. Your multiplier increases whenever you perform a special move. Most of the special moves consist of interactions with environmental gimmicks, but performing moves like backflips and ground pounds also raises the counter. So, you can raise your multiplier higher than intended through knowledge of movement tech: doing a backflip and then a ground pound into a combo gives you significantly more beats than just jumping. This is hard to pull off, so in the best levels, you're always seeking out ways to increase your multiplier as fast and early as possible, and never, ever lose it, creating a style of platforming that is entirely unique to this single game, even more so when you use the bongo controller.

All in all, I think this game should have some sort of resurgence, or else an indie clone of some sort. Despite some slow points, at its best, it provides a platforming experience truly unlike anything else. In doing so, it achieves the ideal all Nintendo games seem to aspire to.

game completion: 52 crests + some plats in incomplete playthroughs

score: 1045/1200 bananas