Jungle Book Rhythm N'Groove Hands-On

The PS2 version of Ubi Soft's Jungle Book dance game is out in Europe, and we've got impressions.

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Disney's collaboration with Ubi Soft is starting to pay off. They have been working together not only on the PS2 games Dinosaur and Donald Duck's QuackAttack, but also on Jungle Book Rhythm N'Groove, the first-ever dance game on the PlayStation 2 in Europe. Like the PS version, the PS2 installment comes with a dance pad that you can put on the floor--similar to games like Dance Dance Revolution from Konami.

The main menu lets you choose from two main gameplay modes: a story mode and a versus mode. The story mode puts you in the role of Mowgli, the young boy whom we all know from the movie The Jungle Book. You have to dance your way through the game while the plot follows the path of the movie. You challenge the movie's characters to dance-offs before finally reaching the showdown with the evil tiger Shir Khan. The nine characters that challenge you include Baghira the panther, Junior the elephant, Balu the bear, King Louie, one of the crazy apes, Kaa the snake, Buzzie the vulture, Shir Khan the evil tiger, and Shanti, Mowgli's sweet girlfriend. Each time you beat one of them, that character becomes a playable character in the game's versus mode. Each has a unique style of dancing, with the snake's being the smoothest, Shir Khan's the most aggressive and explosive, and King Louie's the most soulful and rhythmic.

The gameplay mechanics are quite simple: Arrows cascade down the screen in two columns, and you must enter commands in synch with them. Each arrow will have a button that corresponds to it on the controller of the dance mat, which you must press (or step on) in tempo with the music and visual prompts. The left column of arrows corresponds with the D-pad, while the right column corresponds with the face buttons, and both sets have appropriately marked buttons on the dance mat. Of course, it helps to listen to the music, as the arrows fall in certain patterns that match the song's beat. Additionally, certain arrow patterns are displayed in a separate box, whose patterns you need to enter in between the usual arrows. By executing those tasks correctly, you can gain special arrows, of which there are 24 in total. These special arrows are primarily used in the versus mode to hinder your opponent and make him stumble. For example, using one can cause your opponent's arrows to uncontrollably spin in circles all of a sudden, confounding him and making him lose step. They can also cause his arrows to flicker randomly or bring about an explosion onscreen that scatters flowers, obstructing his view of the meter.

The game has five difficulty settings, but even on the hardest mode, it's still very easy. As mentioned in our review of the PlayStation version, it's clear that Ubi Soft had a younger audience in mind for Rhythm N'Groove.

The game's cutscenes are particularly impressive--they feature scenes from the original Disney movie but are rendered in full 3D. This is a risky thing to do, as the movie had so much charm and character--both of which are very easy to compromise in the move to 3D. But thankfully, Ubi Soft was up to the task and created impressive movie sequences that can keep up with the original in most respects. The songs have been spiced up quite a lot with new beats and funky background riffs, such as guitar and slap bass solos. The original voices were kept, though, which was essential to conserving the feel of the film.

We couldn't spot any new features in the PS2 version. The controls are the same, as are the gameplay mechanics. Naturally, the 3D stages look more detailed than on the PS, and the characters are closer to their big-screen counterparts. Looking at the whole picture, the game is way too easy at this stage and offers too little replay value to make you keep coming back. We'll have to wait and see whether the final US versions improves upon this version.

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