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Submitted by Chris Leyton on February 6 2005 - 11:25

Drop the preconceptions, DK: Jungle Beat is 2D platforming goodness...

Itâ??s time to dust off those bongos once more, as the original and the best ape makes a return in DK: Jungle Beat...

Introducing the bongos with the rhythm/action title Donkey Konga last year, itâ??s fair to say that the game had limited longevity and suffered somewhat from a gimmicky nature. However those longing for the return of Donkey Kong in an out-and-out platformer, can beat their chests in triumph as its successor, DK: Jungle Beat, features many similarities to the superb Donkey Kong Country series, whilst also proving that 2D styled platformers can still hold their own and of course controlling the game with those crazy bongos.

The game marks a return to the glorious age of 2D platformers, with DK progressing through the stages, collecting bananas and pounding anything that gets in his way. Naturally the main innovation comes from the bongo controllers, and we have to say itâ??s surprising just how satisfying it is to play the game with these. Nintendo have worked wonders on the gameplay, to ensure that with practise and a little skill youâ??ll play the game with an almost rhythmic nature.

Players tap the right bongo to move right and the left to move left, tapping at a faster pace makes DK run quicker, whilst tapping both at the same time will make the big ape jump. Clapping however provides the most useful mechanic and this allows DK to perform a variety of manoeuvres to interact with the game, from knocking down bananas to grabbing them in one big combo; itâ??s this feature that lends the game its flowing nature and one of the main reasons why playing DK: Jungle Beat is just so much fun.

Broken down into four different kingdoms, each of which consist two stages and a truly epic boss encounter, players have to collect a certain number of â??Beatsâ? per stage to receive Bronze, Silver and Gold â??Crestsâ?, which are then used to progress to the next kingdom and unlock stages.

To begin with it may seem as though youâ??re tapping and clapping away without any focus, however the genius of Nintendoâ??s level designs soon become apparent, as you gain the skill to complete the levels with style, often in one continuous combo that provides real enjoyment and satisfaction; sliding down hills, jumping onto flowers and flying off it in a tap and a clap, all the time collecting bananas in succession.

The bongos take a little time to get used to, but before too long youâ??ll be running and jumping around with the usual fluidity of classic Nintendo platformers; however once youâ??ve passed through a few kingdoms and defeated a number of bosses youâ??ll realise that the once novelty peripheral is the only way to play this game, if you fancy checking out for yourself then try using the GameCube pad. Attempting to replicate the rhythmic nature of the bongos, trying to control DK is nigh-on impossible and a frustrating experience; itâ??s questionable as to whether a traditional control system would make the bongos seem less ideally suited, but one thingâ??s for sure youâ??ve just got to drop whatever preconceptions you may have about the bongos and enjoy DK: Jungle Beat the way itâ??s meant to be played.

Collecting bananas and items earns you Beats, which also double up as brilliantly as DKâ??s health. The collection of Beats also provides one of the games strongest aspects, which ties everything together and keeps it flowing superbly; whilst you can easily collect bananas one-by-one, youâ??ll receive more by performing a clap-grab to gather them in one-big combo. Acquiring multiple bananas in a one-stop sequence without touching the floor is the key to succeeding in some of the devilish stages featured towards the end of the game, and is a shining reminder of the creative genius still running freely at Nintendo. With practise youâ??ll be tapping and clapping your way through the levels with the typical level of style and panache that youâ??d expect from a Nintendo platformer.

Thereâ??s a phenomenal amount of variety within the stages, so itâ??s not all running and jumping, with a number of events such as races and long-jump competitions seamlessly blended into the stage. Progressing through the stage moves at a quick pace, particularly when youâ??ve become sufficiently skilled with the bongos and how the levels are laid out, usually taking between 2-3 minutes although a few stages will take slightly longer.

Of course DKâ??s relentless hunt for bananas isnâ??t just a swing through the jungle, and thereâ??s a number of memorable creatures that stand in his way. The various creatures that DK faces each have unique ways to defeat them; some simply require you to jump on their heads, whilst others require a clap beforehand to disorientate them. Often the camera will zoom-in when you need to carry out a specific technique against certain creatures, such as spinning one on its back and jumping into to deliver a flurry of punches, or those that require you to be more rhythmic with your bongo beats such as hitting them into the air three times before delivering the fatal blow.

The close-up camera work reminded us a lot of Super Smash Bros Melee, whilst the need for specific techniques to defeat certain opponents ties in the bongos brilliantly and feels fresh in a genre that usually requires little more then a mindless press of the button. It also fuses next-gen virtues into a genre that has virtually been forgotten in recent years, and ensures the game looks absolutely awesome.

Whilst the main game is insanely fun and wreaks Nintendo from every moment, itâ??s the boss stages that really put a smile on your face. The only disappointment stems from the fact that the same 3 or 4 distinctive boss characters are reused throughout the entire game, albeit in an increasingly more difficult appearance. This slightly weak line-up however is more than redeemed by their epic nature and the thought put into creating them. Beginning with a clap to signify a kind of â??Bring it Onâ?, the various boss characters feature an assortment of patterns to deduce and take advantage of; having done this youâ??ll daze the big guy and open up the opportunity to whack those bongos to deliver a fatal blow.

Itâ??s during the close camera scenes that the visuals really ram home, DK and the assorted crew have never looked so good, thanks largely to somebody being very liberal with the fur shading and the typical Nintendo qualities of bringing characters to life. Thrown in are cell-shaded effects for things like smoke and explosions, whilst watchful Nintendo fans will notice that the feathers from The Wind Waker have been directly lifted.

DK fans will also appreciate the music, featuring unmistakable tunes from previous Donkey Kong titles, in addition to a variety of new tracks that all sound the part. As youâ??d expect from a Nintendo title, the sound effects are literally in a league of their own, and truly bring the DK that we all know and love together.

If we had any complaints it would be that thereâ??s simply not enough. Itâ??s fair to say that the majority of Nintendo games are short and sweet, but the vast majority of these feature an underlying depth in replay value. Although it will take you some time before you achieved Gold Crests in each Kingdom, the sheer pace of the game and the relative lack of secrets and hidden areas ensures that DK: Jungle Beat doesnâ??t have quite the same depth as previous classics.

Much like Donkey Konga, DK: Jungle Beat puts your wrists through a workout so youâ??ll want to be careful about playing it too much, people donâ??t seem to believe that I was up all night playing with my bongos put it like that! To make matters worse at the finish of each stage youâ??re given a quick few seconds to bash the bongos as quickly as possible to gain some bonus Beats.

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  • Graphics: 91%
     
  • Sound: 82%
     
  • Gameplay: 92%
     
  • Originality: 92%
     
  • Longevity: 78%
     
Overall Score: 8/10
We’ve been waiting for a decent platformer and certainly weren’t expecting the novelty of DK: Jungle Beat to bring it. The game does represent something of a re-birth for 2D platformers, brining some of the most refreshing level-designs and good old-fashioned fun since Mario was a little baby in Yoshi’s Island.

If like us you lament the transformation of the 2D platformer into the generic 3D runabout ala Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, etc, then it’s highly likely you’ll find something to appreciate with DK: Jungle Beat.

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