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Submitted by Chris Leyton on October 19 2004 - 14:01

Strap on your bongos, it's time for Donkey Konga...

Itâ??s hard not to look at Donkey Konga with a degree of suspicion and slight doubt; it can certainly be said that it highlights Nintendoâ??s return from a relative low ebb in recent years compared to its previously illustrative past.

Usually the words â??innovationâ? and â??funâ? go hand-in-hand with the Japanese publisher, however it has recently been beaten in such areas by its rivals, particularly the hugely popular introduction of Sonyâ??s EyeToy â?“ a peripheral that Nintendo self-admiringly wished theyâ??d created.

So a partnership between NAMCO and Nintendo sees the release of Donkey Konga, a rhythm/action game that revolves around tapping and clapping a bongo peripheral in a similar manner to NAMCOâ??s Taiko no Tatsujin series. Having shifted over 2 million units of this series in Japan alone, nobody can doubt its popularity within that region, however we have concerns that such a title wonâ??t prove as popular amongst an image-conscious West.

This particular type of â??gameâ? has been about for a considerable time, with arguably the finest offering coming in the form of Sonic Teamâ??s Samba De Amigo back in 2000; however as that title proved, its success if often a hard thing to determine!

Thankfully publishers have realised since then that the pricing is absolutely crucial, and as such Donkey Konga includes the excellent peripheral and game for the normal cost of a videogame â?“ a decision that Sony demonstrated perfectly with the release of EyeToy and one that killed off Sambaâ??s chance of success at over £75!!!

The major concern for us however is that these party games/post-pub entertainment (call them what you wish) have evolved, EyeToy in particular succeeded because it offered an entirely new approach and more importantly one that doesnâ??t suffer from repetition. The fact is that weâ??ve been playing rhythm/action games since Bemani culture first invaded these shores from Japan in 1999, and sadly Donkey Konga offers relatively little in terms of new ideas.

The majority of the game sees various icons moving from the right to the left of the TV screen, with players having to hit either the left or right bongo, both or clap their hands. As with most games in this genre itâ??s a lot of fun to begin with, although weâ??d certainly suggest opting for a higher difficulty setting to begin with, as the default â??Monkeyâ? setting should come with a â??loss of consciousnessâ? warning sticker and seems to have the effect of making a 3-minute song feel like 30!

We feel unfair to keep judging party games like this against EyeToy, however we feel it only natural as Sonyâ??s title made such an impact upon the genre. Unfortunately Donkey Konga suffers from yet another problem levelled at this genre, and one that EyeToy makes improvements upon â?“ namely repetition. Pre-EyeToy, there was only one game whose sheer vibrancy and fun beat past the issue of repetition and ensured fun for months to come; however like many of its rivals, the actual drum-playing experience in Donkey Konga becomes all a little too samey after a relatively short period.

The game presents a variety of modes:

  • Street Performance â?“ Clear each song to earn coins (1P)
  • Challenge â?“ See how many songs in a row you can clear (1 or 2P) *2 controllers needed*
  • Battle â?“ Find out who the better drummer is (2P) *2 controllers needed*
  • Jam â?“ Work together to make beautiful music (1 to 4P)
  • Ape Arcade - Play mini-games (1 or 2P)
In addition players can visit the DK Town to acquire a huge variety of unlockable goodies, including new sounds for your bongos, increased difficulty ratings and a variety of fun mini-games to play in the Ape Arcade.

The biggest problem for us however is the fact that in order to gain the most enjoyment youâ??ll need at least two sets of bongos, whilst those in the highly likely situation of having more than one friend will need four. Unlike EyeToy, there are no modes where players take turns, instead all the multiplayer modes require another bongo or at the very least a joypad â?“ and letâ??s admit it, playing a game like this on a joypad is just wrong. The success of Donkey Konga appears to be constrained once again like so many in the past, by this tight restriction of either needing to a) have lots of friends who own a GameCube or b) are very rich and can afford to buy three additional sets of bongos (RRP £24.99).

Before this sounds like a constant tirade against Donkey Konga, we must point out that thereâ??s certain points we really love about the game, and itâ??s these few primary flaws at a design level that impede the overall experience. Having four players on a higher difficulty is absolutely hilarious, as theyâ??re clapping and tapping away whilst straining to watch their timeline without blinking. Itâ??s also one of the first where the playerâ??s beatâ??s tie in brilliantly with the music on-screen - in particular Queenâ??s â??Donâ??t Stop Me Nowâ? is pure party-gaming genius.

The actual multiplayer specific modes mix up the experience by chucking in a variety of power-upâ??s, which certainly lends the game some variety and ensures the bouts are fast and frantic, whilst the inclusion of mini-games such as vine swinging are a nice touch and continue to add to the fun factor.

The music within the game is yet another highlight, mixing up classics from the past, with slightly more modern tunes and a selection of Nintendo songs that fanboys will adore. The result is a mixture that will appeal to a wider range of people then the teen focussed exploits of SingStar for example, and includes such hits as â??Donâ??t Stop Me Nowâ?, â??The Loco-Motionâ?, â??Dancing In The Streetâ?, â??Para Los Rumberosâ?, â??Tubthumpingâ?, â??You Canâ??t Hurry Loveâ?, â??Oye Coma Vaâ?, â??Louie Louieâ?, â??I Want You Backâ?, â??Cosmic Girlâ?, â??Lady Marmaladeâ?, â??Wild Thingâ?, â??Back For Goodâ? and â??Hungarian Dance No.5 in G Minorâ? to mention but a few of the 30+ tracks in total.

Also the actual bongo peripheral is supremely designed and well manufactured, as youâ??d expect from Nintendo. Small and light enough to sit on your lap, the peripheral responds excellent to both taps on the actual drums and picking up whenever the player claps thanks to a little microphone situated between the drums. It looks and feels good, truly no Nintendo fanboy can be without a pair, even if they are left sitting under your bed.

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  • Graphics: 32%
     
  • Sound: 84%
     
  • Gameplay: 82%
     
  • Originality: 66%
     
  • Longevity: 72%
     
Overall Score: 7/10
It’s frustrating to find the overall Donkey Konga experience restrained by some basic flaws in the design of the game; the fact that a group of you can’t really enjoy it unless you’ve got multiple bongos is just crazy.

That said, the experience is certainly fun and well worth the investment if you’re into this kind of thing. It makes little effort to innovate the genre and feels dated compared to EyeToy, so we doubt that it will grab the attention of mass consumers like Sony’s title, however Nintendo fanatics and those bought up on Bemani will appreciate it.

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