Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat
Reviewed by Michelle Thurlow
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-08-01 GameCube Music/Rhythm E10 (Everyone 10+) Nintendo

Before I begin my critique of Nintendo's Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, I must in fairness make a confession: I have never been at any time a fan of 2D side-scrolling adventure games. Even back in the genre's heyday, I managed to avoid the keep-going-right Super Mario gameplay of the 80's by purchasing a Sega Master System and enjoying that console's exciting racing, sports, and puzzle titles.

Not surprisingly, I was thus disappointed to discover that Jungle Beat was another 2D platform adventure offering. Didn't this genre expire in 1992? Why is this even a Game Cube title? Shouldn't it have been released on the Game Boy Advance instead?

Initially, I had hoped the game would essentially be a collection of cool puzzles similar to the entertaining mini-games featured in the Donkey Konga series or that PSOne game, Crash Bash.

Much to my chagrin, however, I soon realized that Jungle Beat's gameplay is about as linear as it gets. Each level in the game is called a Kingdom, and each Kingdom contains two Phases (stages) and a duel with the realm's ruler - the King. The boss fights are probably the most positive aspect of the game, as these regal enemies feature excellent AI, whose elimination requires some unexpectedly deep tactical skills on the part of the player. Bongo-mashing will simply make a monkey's uncle out of you in boss brawls.

Speaking of bongos, I was worried that playing Jungle Beat with the DK Bongos would seem gimmicky and forced. And I was... partially wrong. Yes, Donkey does move right when you smack the right drum pad, but more impressively he can snatch several bananas out of the air simultaneously using an interesting maneuver called the Clap Grab. If Donkey simply walks over two pieces of fruit, he'll earn two points (called "beats"); but if he stands next to them and claps, he'll accumulate four points. Using this method, players can increase their point yields exponentially.

And boy, will you need to. To progress further in the game, you must earn crests awarded to you based on your beat tally for each kingdom. Simply defeating a king will net you a bronze crest, while raking in 400 and 800 beats will get you a silver and gold crest, respectively. As if that weren't difficult enough, I was even awarded a platinum crest when I squeezed out over 1400 points on one level.

With the above information in mind, it astonishes me that some people are grumbling that this game is too short. But let me assure you: should you purchase Jungle Beat, you will be given plenty to do. In fact, too much to do. Earning platinum crests on each level will be no easy task to complete, especially since you'll bleed beat points in your tussles with each kingdom's end boss. I've noticed that making it difficult to achieve 100% in a game is a nitpick I have with many Nintendo games (hello, Pokemon?).

Graphically, Jungle Beat is pretty average with predictable platformer level locations: jungles, ice fields, lava worlds, etc. I did, however, get a huge kick out of the adorable grey monkeys who help Donkey traverse each level. These charming little stinkers dance, clap, play music, and generally cheer on Donkey Kong as he goes about his serious business of saving the world. They should star in their own game!

Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is a 2D action game par excellence. Here is a title whose deep gameplay requires unique hand-eye coordination skills and sharp mathematical prowess. That is, if you enjoy that kind of thing. But if you're a perfectionist like me, who wants (with reasonable effort invested) to be able to walk away from a game with 100% recorded on your memory card, you might want to give Jungle Beat a rent to see if it,s worth frustration due to lack of closure. Completist gamers who venture into this Donkey Kong country are sure to be handed a cluster of tough bananas.