A Gamer’s Love Letter: Wrapping Hands Around Donkey Kong’s Bongos

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November 20, 2012 by khrisgolder

Years ago, I purchased Donkey Kong Jungle Beat on a whim and never played it. The game, the bongos, and my Gamecube sat untouched, collecting dust for nearly a decade. In spirit of the release of Wii U, I decided to take a second look, and I found myself completely surprised. The game was the best kind of combination between simple and fun.

For those like me who never played it, DK Jungle Beat is a platformer controlled by a set of small bongos. It was originally released for GameCube and later for the Wii. Through variations of drumming and clapping, it provides a truly unique game play experience. I was in love with how responsive the controls were for such an older title, and the love grew as I got deeper into the game.

In an impressively rhythmic beat of the bongos, Donkey Kong charges through a host of different kingdoms in search of bananas (as always), and comes across all the traditional obstacles like henchman and ringleaders bent on banana-blocking Nintendo’s favorite gorilla. Jungle Beats plays on its roots, reverting back to former Donkey Kong Country titles for its look and feel. However, the controls are definitely fresh, even by today’s standards.

Moving DK

Hit each bongo left and right to make DK walk. Each new move (i.e. wall jump) is sprinkled in at a decent pace. Driven by clever level design, it leads the player into learned situations that make you feel like a bongo natural. DK stuns enemies and swing from vines by clapping, which is captured by the mic inside the bongo.

Beat that monkey!

The most impressive piece of the game was easily the boss battles. At the end of every level, DK enters a unique, entertaining boss fight. Some bosses are fought in a fixed area where the player has to discover the boss’ weak spot. Other bosses are straight up one on one monkey fights, and the control scheme changes to boxing mode. Left and right bongo punches coupled with a clap triggered dodge makes it feel like a Donkey Kong Punch-Out. As the game progresses, becoming more challenging, I found myself taking frequent breaks.

I am hard pressed to find any other way to describe it: the game’s pure, unadulterated fun. Jungle Beat is one of the GameCube’s more striking titles when it comes to graphics, and still has a presentable polish and shine. The music and sound exemplify old school SNES Donkey Kong Country games, but revamped in such a way to make the each jump, grumble, and jungle beat feel crisp and clean. If you played it back in the day, this is ancient news. If you skipped it, chalk up my big, juicy love letter as a green light on this GameCube gem.

Contributed by Jason Tolbert

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