Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat review. New Play Control DK drums up the Wii with a unique platform adventure

4 May 2009
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New Play Control: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for WiiNew Play Control: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the latest game in Nintendo’s line of classic GameCube games updated with new control schemes using the Wii Remote & Nunchuck for play exclusively on Wii. Previous New Play Control entries include Pikmin and Mario Power Tennis.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was originally released for the GameCube in 2005 and gained attention through the use of its extremely unique control scheme which required the use of the GameCube Bongo Drums accessory (originally released with Donkey Konga).

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  • The game surprised many as it went back to the Donkey Kong Country roots of Kong’s past with a side-scrolling platformer that was enhanced via the use of the drums. Players used the drums for everything in the game. To run left or right you hit the left or right drum, to jump you pounded both drums at the same time. You would also clap your hands or hit the sides of the drums to cause DK to do his shockwave move wherein he claps his hands, emitting a shockwave that has various effects. There were also other moves Donkey Kong could perform, and all of it was controlled using the Bongo Drums accessory.

    Naturally, the fact that the game used a drumming motion meant it would translate rather well to the Wii, which could easily mimic the drums by using the Wii Remote & Nunchuck to make drumming gestures. And that’s exactly what Nintendo decided to do with New Play Control: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat on the Wii.

    But the Wii Remote & Nunchuck ARE NOT a pair of drums. So how does this new spin on the classic drumming game hold up with its new control scheme?

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat logo

    System: Wii
    Also On: GameCube
    Wii Release – USA May 4, 2009 – EUR TBA – JAP December 11, 2008 – AUS June 18, 2009
    GameCube Release – USA March 14, 2005 – EUR February 4, 2005 – JAP December 16, 2004
    Genre: Side-Scrolling Platformer
    Players: 1
    Controller: Wii Remote & Nunchuck only. Nunchuck required to play.
    Save: 1 Block. 6 Files available. Game saves at the end of level completed or when a high score is beaten.
    Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Origin: Japan
    Rated: E10+ for Everyone 10 years old and older (Contains Cartoon Violence)
    Discs: 1 Disc (It’s worth noting that New Play Control: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat has a two-sided cover. Slide your fingers under the plastic covering the box to pull out the paper cover and reverse it for a slightly different cover. One that mirrors the original GameCube release).

    New Play Control: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat actually plays quite a bit differently than its GameCube predecessor. It also has new levels and other tweaks that help make this new version more of a compelling buy than it would otherwise.

    Instead of translating the controls directly to the Wii by having players move Donkey Kong right or left by making a right or left drumming motion with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck, Nintendo opted instead to map movement of DK entirely to the Control Stick on the Nunchuck. So Donkey Kong is now controlled by simply moving the Control Stick left or right to have him walk (or run, depending on how far you press the stick) in the corresponding direction. This helps make the game feel like more of a traditional platformer than the GameCube version.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat GameCube ad

    So where does drumming come into the occasion you ask? Well it’s really been regulated to only a few situations now, for better or for worse. Though when you think about it, having to make drumming motions with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck would’ve been quite the endurance test so maybe it was best that they map movement to the stick. In this game you use the DK’s Clap Attack to stun enemies, to release bananas from bubbles and in other situations where you will be required to use it to make it through the level.

    You clap by swinging the Wii Remote or Nunchuck (or shaking them). You jump by pressing the A Button. The Z Button is used to Crouch. Press the A Button while Crouching to perform a backflip. Pressing the B Button while in the air will cause DK to shoot downward, feet first and perform a “Ground Pound”. If you jump against a wall and hold the control stick in that direction you can press A to make DK push off the wall and fly in the opposite direction, which is known as a Wall Jump and can be used to reach higher platforms or navigate up adjacent walls. Finally you can perform a “Ground Slap” (where he pounds the ground with his fists, which also releases a shockwave) by crouching and shacking the Wii Remote.

    In Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, the goal of the game is to make your way through numerous stages (10 worlds in all) collecting Bananas, destroying enemies and avoiding obstacles in order to make it to the end of the stage to grab the big fruit and face the final boss.

    Story in the game is pretty much non-existent, but here it is for the curious:

    “One day, the peace of the jungle was disrupted by a rampaging pack of wild baddies who wreaked havoc on the residents of the jungle. Not only that, bu they laid claim to every kingdom and stole each one’s precious bananas! “This calls for the one and only Donkey Kong!” Join forces with your jungle buddies to face an array of powerful enemies and restore peace to the jungle!”

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat boss king artwork

    Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is essentially a platformer in the vein of something like Donkey Kong Country, but the game is a FAR different title than Donkey Kong Country because of how it is played using the Wii Remote & Nunchuck.

    You start the game out with only three worlds and will unlock more as you beat each one. Each world is based on a different fruit.

    The levels are riddled with bananas and bunches of bananas that you will want to collect in order to increase the amount of health that you will have during the boss fight at the end of each stage. As your health during the boss fight directly corresponds to how many bananas you collected in the two levels leading up to the boss battle.

    Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat screenshot. New Play Control. Collecting bananas

    While a lot of the bananas will be lying on the ground in plain view, some of them will also be in the air or floating in bubbles. While you can collect the bananas the “normal” why by simply touching them, you will gain more points (er, bananas) if you collect them by jumping near them and pressing the A Button. This is known as the Air Grab and DK can use this to collect an entire group of Bananas in one shot. This is also the only way that you can collect bunches that are in bubbles, unless you Clap to burst the bubble and collect the bananas as they fall. Using the Air Grab to grab the bananas will multiply the points giving you much more than if you collected them normally. So 3 bananas collected normally would only give you three bananas, but using the Air Grab to collect those same bananas would net you 9 points!

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat combo screenshot. New Play Control version

    What really gives the game a lot of depth is the combo system which is based on “beats”. Beats are given for every action you perform in the game as long as you remain airborne and don’t touch the ground. When you do touch the ground it will multiply any bananas you have collected. However if you are hit by an enemy or perform the same action twice the combo meter will stop.

    Each time you do a new move that starts or continues a combo the number for the combo will display on the screen at the point where it started or continued and a fairy will fly around Donkey Kong. The music will also pick up and will get really cool if you can built up your combo high. Even monkeys that help you out by pointing out where you should go or how to perform moves will start reacting to the beat!

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat screenshot. New Play Control

    Like in Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat uses a lot of airborne objects that propel Donkey Kong through the air. These take the form of arrow which will fling Donkey Kong from place to place when you slap them. Enemies will also need to vanquished by combining slaps with grabs of the A Button. At these points the camera will zoom into Donkey Kong and you will need to make quick drumming motions or shakes with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck to literally pound the enemies into submission. This is the only time you will need to make a real ‘drumming’ motion during actual gameplay, however is required to take out quite a lot of enemies so you will use it from time to time as you make your way to the end of the level.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat flowers screenshot. New Play Control version

    Like a standard platformer, you will take out all kinds of enemies from flying mosquito that must be slapped twice in a row to giant buzzing bees to all kinds of other enemies. You’ll also encounter various obstacles and objects that you can use or activate (usually with a Clap) to make things more interesting. You’ll find flowers that you can swing on by shaking the Wii Remote to fling yourself to a higher platform, ropes you can swing on, Bloom Fairy’s and Bloom Pods that make flower petals appear in a pattern or a line (collect them all to give yourself an extra life), hidden coins 1UP coins, platforms that will only activate (or objects that will grow and turn into platforms) when you hit them with a shockwave, and even Barrel Cannons like in the Donkey Kong Country games (they shoot you in the direction they are facing).

    The early stages are pretty standard but the levels get cooler and more original as you get deeper into the game. By the end of the game I was amazed at how cool and unique the levels were designed. It truly lives up to the Donkey Kong name and made me think about the great level designs of Donkey Kong Country, although this game has a completely different feel.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat barrel cannons screenshot. New Play Control version

    The game also has some of the best swimming controls I have seen in a long time and there is one stage that blew my mind with its originality. It somehow made swimming awesome!

    You will also encounter some levels where you will use the help of an animal buddy (although these creatures are all-new and not related in any way to Donkey Kong Country’s creatures. Which goes for the rest of the game, it is in no way connected to Donkey Kong Country). One of the coolest ones is a bull that continuously runs in one direction. AS the camera zooms way out you will hold right on the stick to speed up and press back to slowdown, however the bull still runs at an incredibly fast clip.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Bull Hooter artwork

    While on the bull you will bash your way through certain objects collecting bananas, jump over gaps, jump into the air to collect bananas and avoid obstacles in your way. The other animals are less fun. One is a bird that you will struggle to control as you press the A Button to make it flap it’s wings and carry you upward. Another is simply like a balloon where you can speed up or down by pressing the stick up or down and must avoid obstacles and go in certain directions by catching wind gusts. The last is a dolphin that you will encounter in certain underwater stages. Once you grab onto it it will simply swim around a guided path breaking obstacles that you couldn’t previously break.

    After making your way through two sections you will reach a boss fight with the Kings of the Kingdom, which are known as “King Battles”. Each of these bosses have their own unique patterns and you will need to learn them in order to take them down. All of them are fun to fight though and you will see the same ones a few times but with more moves and more health the further you get in the game.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Hooter the Bull screenshot

    Each one is different from the last. There is a bird boss for example that flies around shooting out various balls of energy at you that you have to dodge. On either side of the area are arrows that launch you towards him. In his talons he holds a giant orb, which is naturally his weak point. You must launch yourself towards him and clap at the orb to stun him. You will then need to launch at him again and press A to grab onto him. From there you can drum with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck to pound his orb, thus damaging him.

    Another boss fight is against a giant machined elephant. He will shoot various balls at you that you must avoid. Sometimes he will shoot fruit that you can knock in the air with a Clap and then grab and throw in his direction to damage him. However the trick to beating him easier is to launch the fruit at his trunk when he’s blowing in air. He will then shoot out bomb fruit that you can launch into his beating heart for massive damage!

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat boss fight screenshot. New Play Control version

    Every one in a while you will also face the true monkey kings and these guys give a very unique fight! Basically you can swing the Wii Remote & Nunchuck to punch with Donkey Kong and will have to dodge their martial arts attacks by pressing the Z Button. Time your presses so that you dodge their moves enough times and you’ll have a chance to strike and knock them unconscious briefly. From there you will be able to pound them into submission by drumming the Wii Remote & Nunchuck. The boss fights are some of the highlights of the game and they get more challenging as you progress to the later worlds.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Ice Sliding Screenshot. New Play Control

    The level designs themselves also get increasingly cooler with some really great levels. One of them involves using moving platforms with slits in the middle that hover over lava. When the platforms go upside down you must be sure to continuously wall jump so you don’t fall out. Other stages have DK sliding down icy slopes, battling ninja monkeys in the pouring rain at night, and swimming through different environments. The lava in particular looks great and the undersea levels are also good looking visually.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat lava screenshot. New Play Control

    The later stages are actually quite challenging and I found myself dying several times on some of them. Which was great!

    At the end of each stage you will have a banana hording mini-game where you must drum as fast as you can in order to eat as many bananas as possible in a short amount of time. At the end of each stage it will count up how many bananas you collected and you will be awarded with Crests for every 200, 500 and 1,000 bananas! Collect all of the crests and something good will happen! And collecting them all is quite the challenge. It will take several playthroughs and a mastery of combos before you will be able to conquer most worlds with a banana count of over 1,000. You will also have to do well in the boss fight, in which your health corresponds to how many bananas you have collected, and losing health during boss fights will result in loss of bananas during the end tally.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat banana horde eating screenshot. New Play Control version

    Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat. Having never played the original I was very curious to check this game out to see how it held up. And at first I wasn’t so impressed. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a game that seems slow-paced at first, due to DK’s somewhat slow walking and running speed and the game has somewhat of a learning curve due to the newly mapped controls and uniqueness of how the game plays which is really different from anything else out there. However after a while you will get used to it and the gameplay will become smoother as you learn how to chain your moves together and grow bigger combos for higher scores.

    While the game is not long per se, and there is no multiplayer, is longer than I thought it would be and the levels themselves are excellent. And they only get cooler, funner and harder the further you get in the game! And getting all the crests is quite the challenge so there is a fair amount of replay value in the game even though it’s a bit short. The game also keeps track of your high scores so you can attempt to beat your previous score on each stage.

    Graphically the game is a bit simple looking and the “amazing” fur effect that I remember from years gone by no longer looks amazing (in the least) but the game doesn’t look bad and will satisfy. But the more impressive aspect is just how crazy the game is! Everything about Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, from the moment you boot it up, is loud, quirky and over the top. It really suits Donkey Kong well. In particular the way he is presented is as a Kong with fire in his eyes ready to pummel his foes. My brother described it well as Donkey Kong looking like he is ‘ready for a fight”. And this portrayal of the King of Kongs is far removed from the young, partying but laidback Kong of the original Donkey Kong Country and is more like a cross between that version and the DK from Super Smash Bros. But overall it fits the image of a wild, crazy, aggressive monkey that you’d expect DK to be. And in that sense, the mode of the game is absolutely nailed. The sound effects, music and brief voice clips (“DON-KEY KO-NNNG!”) fit the style to a T.

    Because there is no other Donkey Kong game yet for the Wii, and because the game is overall a very solid, very well made and very unique platformer, I recommend that any Wii owner with a hint of interest give this game a look. For $30 I think the game is a tad overpriced but if you are looking for a great platformer that’s somewhat on the short side you really can’t go wrong. Although you may want to rent first if you played the original GameCube version. It’s too bad the game isn’t $20, or I’d be recommending it even more, cause at the price point the game is a great value. But either way, give Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat a look. You may be pleasantly surprised as I was to find a great platformer that tries harder than most other games of its ilk, and succeeds in nearly all cases.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat pig beating screenshot. New Play Control version

    FUN FACTOR: 8.0
    Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is a very solid, fun and highly original platformer that translates well to the Wii. Although the game is even more fun with bongos, as our GameCube review confirms, it does well on the Wii and the new controls fit the game nicely. However it is the level design of the game, particularly in the later stages, that truly stands out and really elevates this game from good to “great”. Definitely give it a try if you are hankering for a new Wii platformer or never played the original game.

    Graphics: 7.0
    The game is showing its age and the fur that once looked so amazing is no longer amazing. But the game doesn’t look bad. It’s merely a bit simple in some spots and looks dated after four years. Thankfully the game does have a cool, wild style that fits the new look of Donkey Kong perfectly.

    Music and Sound: 6.5
    Although the music and sound fit the game well, they are forgettable and don’t begin to touch on the great soundtrack of the classic Donkey Kong Country series. The sound effects can be funny at first, but they do end up getting a bit annoying.

    Ingenuity: 7.5
    Because the game doesn’t control by drumming and instead by the Control Stick, it doesn’t seem as unique as it once was. However the game does still make excellent use of the Wii Remote & Nunchuck combo and the controls aren’t a bad substitute for bongo drums. Because of the way the game plays and controls, it feels very unique and unlike any other platformers out there. However if you do own the original version I would not get rid of it, as the Wii Remote & Nunchuck simply can’t compete with a drum set.

    Replay Value: 7.0
    There is no multiplayer mode, no two-player mode, no online play and no additional modes. However, the game contains three Crests to earn per world and you can only do so by earning over 1,000 bananas which is quite the feat to pull off! Doing so will unlock some additional content. If you like the game, then this will keep you going for a while as you replay all the levels trying to get a high enough score.

    Donkey Kong Jungle Beat DK Clap artwork. New Play Control version


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    Josh Romero By Josh Romero: He is a lover of videogames, as well as metal music, Gilmore Girls, chatting, social networking, Phoenix Suns, reading, writing and many other nerdy things. Read his posts here and connect with him on Youtube.

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