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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat – GameCube

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat – GameCube

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatPlatform:  Nintendo GameCube

Developer:  Nintendo EAD Tokyo

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA):  March 14th, 2005

Genre:  Platformer, Music & Rhythm

Nerd Rating:  7.5 out of 10

Not to be confused with the re-release of the same title for the Wii supporting standard controls.


During my stint of reviewing Mario Party titles released for the GameCube, I fished out the microphone and was reminded of the 2 Bongo Controllers I’d purchased some time ago for playing the duo of Donkey Konga games.  I’ve been recently looking into gathering up all of the Donkey Kong releases, and I ran across another game requiring the bongos, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which unfortunately must have slipped under my radar during the time I first became aware of the drum controllers.  I don’t remember my exact first reaction when I headed over to Amazon to buy it, but I do know that nowhere in my mind had I expected a platforming game.  Generally speaking, first-party platformers are a way for the company to show off their hardware and made to be as user friendly as possible, so I was left a little shocked, and knew I’d have to play it to believe it.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatI suppose Nintendo elected to err on the side of caution with this experiment and chose to implement such means in a Donkey Kong title instead of Mario.  Without a doubt, the risk paid off.  Big time.  I know, it’s hard to believe, and most gamers out there who haven’t given this a whirl are likely to remain skeptical, but this game has a lot going for it and will not disappoint.  The gameplay is surprisingly easy to pick up, platforming challenges are scaled back a bit to account for the unfamiliar peripheral, and the nature of banging around on fake drums usually serves to keep the pace of the game at a maximum.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatAs I sat down and fired up the GameCube, I couldn’t decide whether the experience was going to be silly or impossible, but it turns out the controls are super-easy to learn.  The left bongo makes DK walk left, the right bongo sends him right, hitting both at once makes him jump (he can jump while running for a directional jump, but even if standing still the computer AI does a decent job of determining which direction he should go), and finally clapping acts as almost a universal “action” button with the umbrella term of “Clap Grab.”  If you haven’t ever played with the bongos, you might wonder what clapping has to do with them.  Well, I can’t answer that question from a conceptual standpoint but I can tell you that there is a mic on the bongos that is very responsive to claps.  So that’s it; left hit, right hit, hit both, and clap.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatThe bongos are also pressure sensitive and can register the difference between a “soft” and “hard” hit, though the threshold for “hard” is pretty low.  When hit hard, DK lets out a roar in the respective direction that stuns enemies like a clap does.  Figuring out the distinction between hard and soft takes just a tiny bit of effort, but once you’ve got it down it’s no sweat.  Clapping is absolutely the most essential action in the game.  Normally it causes DK to clap in order to stun foes, but depending on the circumstances its functions differ.  DK can collect bananas within a certain radius by using the clap, very useful for mid-air flight and other bananas just out of reach.  It’s also useful for firing one’s self out of “cannons,” grabbing onto monkeys which throw DK, and other assorted tasks such as organizing fireflies that will form platforms.  Jumping may seem clumsy at first, particularly when it concerns timing, but it’s clear from the start that the designers have not placed a huge amount of emphasis on precision jumping and several measures to ensure fluidity are put in place such as the ability to easily wall jump in a fashion similar to Mario.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatGameplay consists entirely of running around collecting bananas, which are termed “beats” in Donkey Kong Jungle Beats.  All of the running, jumping, clapping, and everything else are purely means by which to directly collect beats or get close enough to clap and gather beats thusly.  The game is divided into different kingdoms, and in turn each kingdom is parsed out into 3 stages.  The first 2 are all about getting bananas, er, I mean beats, and the third culminates in a boss battle.  These battles require some specialized usage of the bongos that may not be immediately clear but with a little experimentation it’s easy to get the hang of.  Bosses start off fairly easy such as the boxing match with Dread Kong requiring the player to hit the bongos to throw punches, and then evolve to more difficult feats such as slowing down and then punching watermelons at Rogue-Hog.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatInstead of 3 little hearts or various powerups used to determine health, Donkey Kong Jungle Beats uses a system a little closer to Sonic the Hedgehog.  All of the beats are continually tallied up onscreen, and this represents how much health DK has.  A hit from an enemy will typically take away 10 to 20 beats, so unless you’re getting slammed very early in the level, it’s actually an effort to be killed.  Upon completion of a kingdom, all beats are accounted for, and DK receives either a bronze, silver, or gold crest for his efforts.  If he is awarded a higher crest, by default he obtains all lesser crests as well.  The more medals earned, the more kingdoms become available.  Beyond the initial clearing of a kingdom, the long term objective becomes collecting larger amounts of bananas (BEATS!!) ergo earning gold crests throughout.  Since the kingdoms are relatively short, this opens up a lot of potential replay value without the need to dredge through lengthy and tedious levels.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatUnless you’ve played it, I’m sure it still sounds either tricky or stupid (depending on your perspective) even after reading it first hand.  But believe me, you’ll be banging the bongos and clapping and banging and flailing your arms in ways you would’ve never imagined.  You may even break a sweat!  The good news is that Nintendo has made the bongos responsive enough that you don’t have to slam them as hard as you might start off.  Finding a good strength at which to tap along is key to fully enjoying Donkey Kong Jungle Beats.  You may want to turn up the volume to drown out all the bopping and clapping though!  Nintendo has also done a great job of tapering the difficulty.  It’s easy to get disoriented a little at first, but onscreen reminders are present explaining all manner of useful tips and tricks, and the level design slowly acclimates the player to the unusual style of play.

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatFor all its novelty and merits, GameCube’s Donkey Kong platformer does have a couple of noticeable flaws.  They aren’t enough to hinder gameplay in any way, but they are oversights that could’ve been improved upon.  The first involves the sheer length of the game.  With only 16 (I think) or so kingdoms, overall it’s pretty short.  Seasoned gamers will be able to burn through all of it in a couple of afternoons, though to be fair it should be noted that the intention is to play the same levels again and again attempting to raise one’s high score.  The other, slightly more visible shortcoming, is how this release handles the boss fights.  There’s only really 4 bosses to fight.  With 16 (if I’m right) kingdoms are 4 bosses, well, that means not every single fight is going to be unique and original.  I’m not sure where this strange decision came from, but I can live with it.  Each kingdom is fantastic, and boss battles are usually the briefest portions of the game.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Some gamers will also lament the lack of a multiplayer mode, however, I think it makes perfect sense considering the clapping, which could easily be interpreted by a neighbors bongo controller.  Personally I find 2-player (or more) platforming modes to be rather pointless; either both players take turns eliminating any interactivity at all, or they play cooperatively.  Co-op play is a great way to get through difficult FPS’s, but I find that in platformers the benefits gained by having 2 players onscreen at once are far outweighed by the hassles of timing, pacing, and generally bumping into each other at inopportune times.  Depending on how many of my reviews you’ve read, you may have noticed that I hardly ever discuss the multiplayer aspects of platformers.  Frankly, I don’t like it and I tend to avoid it, although my son’s eagerness to have a go at New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U usually forces me into such situations.

The graphics look as good as most anything I’ve ever played on the GameCube and are definitely beyond those of Super Mario Sunshine.  Various types of terrain and geographical features are portrayed in cartoonish but well-detailed fashion.  Everything is especially crisp and sharp, easily rivaling some titles of questionable value for the Nintendo Wii.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Donkey Kong Jungle BeatNintendo certainly gambled with the consumers by adopting a very unorthodox control scheme for Jungle Beat, especially since this is the only Donkey Kong platform released for the console.  In a rare move for any company, the use of the bongos is required and the standard GameCube controller is wholly unsupported.  Perhaps if I had been an avid GameCube user during its heyday I might feel differently, but as it is I’ve had 2 sets of bongos lying around for a year or more and actually purchased Jungle Beat because I had them, rather than receiving the game and afterwards discovering the requirement.  For retro-gamers interested, I’d recommend getting your hands on this one for sure.

It gives you a better excuse to get a hold of the bongos than the Donkey Donkey Kong Jungle BeatKonga series, and a used copy should run about $15.  Bongo controllers are available en masse in every conceivable condition for $10 on average and are a sight sturdier than all the fake plastic rock instruments floating around.  Since the bongos can only be used for 3 games and are wildly abundant, often times sellers will pair the game with the drums just to offload it.  Don’t let the obscure peripheral hold you back, this is a game that’ll keep you entertained for a good while and one of those titles that’s perfect to forget about for 6 months and pull it back out, especially if you’re that asshole that’s always beating on tables like you’re fucking Lars Ulrich or some shit.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (Wii)If I still haven’t convinced you to get this game, you can always check out the updated Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the Wii which supports standard controls.  I’m actually anxious to give this one a shot after spending a couple of days with the GameCube to determine how much the bongos improve or detract from gameplay.  My instinct is telling me it might seem a little too easy, but rest assured, whenever I track down the Wii version I’ll be sure to post it here at Nerd Bacon first.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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