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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Package Art
  Musical Platformer

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Nintendo is the master of innovation. They always have been and will, hopefully, always remain so. They have paved the way for every major gaming innovation in its history. Light guns, dance pads, mouse, modem, control stick, rumble technology, and now, drums. With Jungle Beat, Nintendo has taken innovation to the next step by offering a rhythmic platforming adventure using, of all things, their unique pair of bongos.


Jungle Beat does a lot of good with the visuals. As one might expect with a Nintendo title, they have applied their usual charming, colorful style, and, as always, it works perfectly. Everything is vividly illustrated with a rainbow of textures. Something characteristic of the visuals is a glossy appearance, which is attractive to the eye. Think along the lines of the Empress Bulblax in Pikmin 2 (the giant worm boss that will roll over all your Pikmin). That character is big, reddish pink, and glossy. Many of the characters have a similar gloss or shine that accentuates their aesthetic appeal. Like a masterful artist, Nintendo dances pleasing medleys of colors across the screen to evoke euphoria unrivaled by most other developers. You will become mesmerized as you pound the bongos jumping from glossy bright green vines straight into a vibrant crimson flower, which will launch you into the sky with a small fireworks show of glowing pollen. Every hair on Donkey Kong moves in close-ups, every attempted effect such as fire and water look beautiful, and it all runs at a completely uninterrupted 60 frames per second. Nintendo, as usual, dazzles.


The music is appropriate to Donkey Kong’s world, as one would expect. It’s mostly characterized by tropical-sounding themes. A lot of drums appropriately pound throughtout the soundtrack. There’s nothing catchy like the Mario theme, but you’ll find plenty of remixes of the main Donkey Kong Country tune. Sounds are amusing and fit the style with a lot of comedic grunts and shrieks out of DK and his enemies. There are no real complaints here, but also nothing that particularly stands out, which isn’t a bad thing.


Nintendo practically invented the platforming genre with Super Mario Bros. Since then, they have innovated the genre in countless ways with Yoshi’s Island, Wario Land, Kirby, and now, Jungle Beat.

The entire game is controlled by the DK Bongos. Drumming left and drumming right moves DK in those directions. Hitting both sides of the bongos at once causes DK to jump. Clapping will trigger certain events in the environment such as clinging to a bird and flying with it or launching yourself out of a flower. Although the actual platforming mechanics aren’t anything too new for a 2D sidescroller, the drums change the feel. The player must use a coordinated, rhythmic string of beats to keep DK moving through the levels and vanquish vile zoo creatures. The drums add a new element and freshness to the platforming.

The goal of each level is to collect as many beats, or bananas, as possible. Medals are awarded at the end of the level based on the amount of beats you have collected. You must grab 1200 beats per level in order to get the highest reward—-a platinum medal. In order to maximize your beat score, you must keep DK in the air as long as possible and grab bananas by clapping. More beats are awarded per banana depending on how long you’ve been in the air and how many bananas you grab with one clap. For instance, you will only receive one beat if you run across a banana. If you clap to collect it, you will receive two. However, if you swing off a vine, push off a wall, and then clap to collect the banana, you will four or five beats for one banana. You’re essentially graded on your combo style.

DK goes through two levels of each kingdom before reaching a boss battle, which may be a duel or a 2D arena fight. In the duels, players must memorize patterns reminiscent of Punch-Out in order to defeat the boss with a series of punches. In the arena fights, there is usually a dynamic the player must exploit in order to defeat the boss character. For example, one of the bosses is a giant robotic elephant that launches bombs and laser beams at you. DK must pick up the bombs and hit the elephant to stun it, which will expose its heart. DK must then hop aboard the heart and beat the heck out of it. The boss battles are fun, but are often repeated throughout the game at varying difficulty levels, which is disappointing. They don’t feel as original as they could be either.

Once you’ve completed a kingdom, your beats will be tallied and you will be awarded medals based on your performance. New kingdoms will be unlocked depending on how many medals you’ve collected.

The formula works well, and is made significantly more amusing and fresh by coordinating your movements to the drums. The difficulty level is significant. Once you reach the latter levels of the game, you’ll have to play through the kingdoms a couple times in order to get more than a bronze or silver medal. The platinum medals are very difficult and may double the game time in some instances. Once you’ve collected all the gold and platinum medals, you will unlock several new levels. It provides incentive for reaching the goal of 1200 beats per level and to continue playing beyond the standard four hour play through time for the regular game. The extras will kick the playtime to 8-10 hours.




Jungle Beat is, in a general sense, like Star Fox 64. Like Star Fox, the game requires you to play through a series of levels to simply beat the game, but by accomplishing special objectives and upping your beat count, you can open new areas to play. It’s vaguely similar to the medal system in Star Fox, and equally rewarding. As you may or may not be aware, Star Fox 64 is one of my favorite games of all time. I enjoy the formula of beating a high score to get a higher medal and unlock more material. For that reason, I thoroughly enjoyed DKJB. The drums add a new element of gameplay by translating the motions of the controller into a rhythmic, musical format. The game is one of Nintendo’s many hits, if not a masterpiece. Why this game has sold so poorly is beyond me, but those who may have been ignoring this game should really reconsider. It is a blast to play through and offers plenty of incentive to go back and best your high score. I highly recommend this game, and I highly doubt you’ll regret a purchase, especially if you already own the DK Bongos and can get it for a reasonably low price.

final score 9.0/10

Staff Avatar Patrick Ross
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"Reggie kicked my ass and took my quote."

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