Donkey Konga 2
Reviewed by Michelle Thurlow
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-07-01 GameCube Music/Rhythm T (Teen) Nintendo / Namco

Wow, what's with all the drum-based music games lately? The recent releases of Taiko Drum Master, Donkey Konga 1 & 2, and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in the past few months would indicate that we, rhythm action gamers, have a full-fledged fad on our hands. Not that I'm complaining, though!

Last month, I reviewed the original Donkey Konga, so it seems only fitting to have a look at the game's sequel this month. In the first Donkey Konga, Donkey and Diddy learned the ropes of playing with their newfound DK barrel bongos. In this sequel, Donkey and Diddy feel enough confidence in their drumming and clapping skills to go on tour, with the help and advice of Dixie Kong, of course.

The basic controls of Donkey Konga 2 are virtually identical to those of its predecessor, which is not surprising, given that the barrel bongos are a slick little peripheral and thus the game's interface needs few improvements.

The little that has changed regarding control is that in DK2, players who hit both drum pads at the same time when only a right or left barrel note passes through the target ring will get penalized. That is to say you'll receive an "OK" for that note instead of a "Great." Fortunately, skipping drum rolls doesn't affect your combo score, just like in the original.

As in DK1, Street Performance is the main mode of play where you'll perform to earn money and approximately 400 gold medals. In completing this mode, you can unlock expert-level songs, redundant bongo sound effects, and dozens of hint cards from Dixie.

Unfortunately, this time around you'll have to pay 50 coins each time you want to play DK2's mini-games: Rhythm Keeper (a musical Simon Says) and Barrel Race (basically Bongo Tetris). If you earn enough points in these mini-games, you'll have the opportunity to play "Match that Badge", a puzzle that resembles the classic child's card game "Memory." If you match two tiles during gameplay, you'll unlock that picture to use as a badge. When you earn a high score in the game's other modes, you'll be given a choice as to which badge (avatar) to put next to your points in lieu of your name or initials.

By the way, if you see yourself more as Ganondorf instead of, say, Toadstool, you'll probably want to unlock all the badges right away so you won't get stuck with an avatar you hate later.

The multiplayer modes from the original (co-op and battle) make a return appearance in DK2, as does the Freestyle option. Freestyle allows the player to wail on the drums with only the background music playing and no notes to follow. I hardly ever use Freestyle, as it takes someone more talented and clever than I am to really enjoy it.

But okay, what you all are really wondering about Donkey Konga 2 is the quality of its musical repertory, right? Well, there are undeniably some likable tunes on the game's soundtrack, including decent covers of REM's "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny, Happy People," as well as a couple of surprisingly jazzy dance tunes. Nevertheless, playing back-to-back songs in the mind-numbing Challenge mode emphasizes even more clearly to me how lacking in variety the game's track list is; the fact that DK2 suffers from this problem is especially shocking since the original game's soundtrack was almost laughably diverse. I enjoy moody, angst-ridden punk as much as anyone else does, but not 25 songs'worth. In a row.

It's a shame that the likes of "Rock Lobster" can't be found on Donkey Konga 2's soundtrack The inclusion of party and stadium anthems like "Love Shack" and "Samba De Janeiro" would do wonders to lighten the game's mood. In the end, Donkey Konga 2 is a decent buy for hardcore music gamers or those who bought the original Donkey Konga and want another title compatible with the DK Bongos.

I discovered that DK2 is long, really long, Rapunzel hair long. I'm surprised I have fingerprints left after slapping and clapping my poor mitts on those bongos for days. However, if you can only afford to purchase either one bongo game or the other, I'd have to say that Donkey Konga 1 will give you the best bang for your dollar.