Disgruntled monkeys sure are making a comeback. From Peter Jackson's anticipated "King Kong" remake to the , our simian pals are forgetting the tranquil days of human-Koko interaction and wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting public.
And that trend continues with the latest addition to the Donkey Kong video game brand, the wildly entertaining Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for Nintendo GameCube. The second release to use the DK Bongos controller, the game greatly differs from its Donkey Konga predecessor. In that game, the player had to hit the left and right bongos to match the patterns popping up on the screen – sort of like a drummers' take on Dance Dance Revolution or a video game version of the old favorite Simon.
DK Jungle Beat, however, is a side-scrolling action game, and banging the drums (and clapping – there's a built-in sound detector) controls the titular character as he runs, jumps, swims, flies, grabs bananas, stomps the crap out of small enemies, punches the crap out of big enemies and so on.
Since Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is played using miniature bongo drums, it's not really the most difficult or challenging game around. However, it is one of the most shamelessly addicting and fun games around. Maybe a little too fun. Let's just say the game is not intended for use in your average New York City apartment, roughly the size of a standard shoebox with walls thinner than the tissue paper used to wrap a fresh pair. The unruly onslaught of BANG-BANG-BANG-CLAP-CLAP-BANG-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-BANG-BANG-BANG became too much for my downstairs neighbor, who knocked on my door after about a half-hour and nervously asked, "Is everything alright up here?"
"Yeah," I answered. "Just trying out a new video game that uses bongo drums."
"But ... there's ... clapping? Is there clapping involved," he wondered aloud, still slightly suspicious.
"Yeah, LOTS of clapping."
There's more to expect than just loud noises when playing DK Jungle Beat, of course; there's also the sore arms (OK, I'm out of shape) and the sweaty pits (OK, I'm really out of shape).
These are the basics of the game: tapping the left drum makes Donkey Kong walk left, and tapping the right drum make him walk right. Tapping either repeatedly makes him run in the corresponding direction, and hitting both drums at the same time makes him jump. Clapping makes Donkey Kong perform a plethora of alpha male activities, such as beating his chest and grabbing all the food in sight. The bananas, or "beats," are Donkey Kong's energy source. No more beats, no more CLAP-CLAP-BANG-BANG.
You are sent pummeling through a bunch of magical kingdoms, each made up of several levels, where you hoard your bananas before squaring off against a boss. After you complete a kingdom, the tallyman comes to tally your bananas, which must have been what that whole song was about. Based on the size of your fruity booty, you are awarded a gold, silver or bronze crest, which unlock more kingdoms and general fun stuff.
While stomping on enemies' heads and collecting loose treasure may be a run-of-the-mill plotline for Nintendo titles, please remember that this game is played using bongo drums (or not, you can play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat with a regular controller, thereby reducing the amount of fun by 100%) – again, it's not your standard piece of work. And the pace of the game is so frenetic, the screen so full of colors and flashes and critters at any given moment, that the only way Mario could keep up was if someone added some "special" ingredients to his pizza dough.
Which I wouldn't recommend. After all, if recent trends are any indication, we'll need the little guy to help us fend off all this ape aggression.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat will be released on March 14. The game's suggested retail price is $54.99 with the DK Bongos controller, $39,99 without.
By Joey Arak