Donkey Kong reacquaints with the classic 2D platforming genre and updates it to modern day standards.

User Rating: 8.6 | Donkey Kong Jungle Beat GC
Donkey Kong reacquaints with the classic 2D platforming genre and updates it to modern day standards. Donkey Kong was Shigeru Miyamoto’s first brainchild and has been entertaining gamers, you, and possibly even your parents before you ever since he sprung to life in the arcades, back as early as 1982. During the eighties and early nineties he showed up in an array of games undertaking a myriad of things. From swinging from vine to vine and teaching your kids maths as DK Jr. to battling erect crocodiles as the prerendered ladykong-killer in Rare’s Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES, the mighty ape did it all. After his huge SNES successes with the Country series the top banana took a step back and served as little more then character roster-filler in various Mario spin-offs for nearly a decade. Now, his "average at best" N64 adventure excluded, DK is finally back with a home console game of his own that lives up to his SNES adventures in terms of sheer quality and fun. At its core, Jungle Beat is little more then a 2D platformer of the kind that we saw 13 in a dozen of in the early nineties. But as with most Nintendo games the brilliance lies within the execution. The emphasis on high-scoring through combos, the marvellous graphics, the fine-tuned bongo controls, the clever camera angles, and level design showing off Nintendo’s 20 year spanning experience in the genre, all combine to create a truly unique experience that blends some of the best of last century’s gameplay with modern day techniques. The gameplay is divided into 16 levels, referred to as kingdoms, and lasting between 3 and 15 minutes each. They all answer to the same basic template: 2 stages, both followed by a bonus round and concluded by a boss battle. Stages are your basic point A to B affair in which you go around collecting bananas, which double as your health, and pummelling enemies until you reach the end. Bonus rounds enable you to further up your banana-count and typically last about 3 seconds. By the time you reach the kingdom’s boss you should have garnered a healthy stash of the yellow fruit and your objective will be to take out the boss with minimal damage, as your remaining health determines your final score. Beating a kingdom will earn you a bronze crest, the game’s equivalent of medals. Reaching the 400 mark will garner you silver, toppling 800 gold, and finishing with a total of over 1200 will bestow upon you the elusive platinum. It’s these crests that, when collected in sufficient numbers, unlock new kingdoms for you to tackle. Jungle Beat’s combo system is very simple and, thanks to some great level design, very effective at the same time. You can collect bananas simply by running into them, or by collecting those close to you simultaneously by clapping your hands together. This second manner will bag you double the score of the number of bananas collected. This number can be enlarged further by performing a series of different moves before actually collecting the nutritious fruit. Lets say you kill an enemy. Instead of just collecting your tasty reward, you could instead backflip onto a nearby wall (times 2), walljump off it (times 3), start a groundpound (times 4) and collect the bananas all at once by clapping (times 5) before you hit the floor. Instead of bagging you a mere 3 points you get a grand total of 15. The kingdoms are carefully designed around this system, enabling you to complete whole stages by combining a string of 2 or 3 big combos. To spice things up a bit further your score won’t be added to the total until the moment at which you touch the ground and taking a hit will break your combo meaning a loss of all points collected so far, a number that can easily reach up and beyond 200. Throw a few racing sections into the mix for diversity’s sake and you’ve got yourself a genuine fun game with enough incentive for self-improvement to replay the earlier kingdoms in order to collect all the crests. Graphically the game is stunning to say the least. Everything consists of bold and vibrant colors and all character models are very detailed. Add to this a slew of good looking special effects for a result that looks much better then anything even the prerendered Donkey Kong Country games provided to us, now in glorious 3D! The animation too is splendidly done and matches the slightly humorous undertone of the game very well. The kind folks at Nintendo even made sure we’d appreciate DK’s facial expressions and acrobatics just that little bit more by sticking a static close-up version of everyone’s favourite gorilla to the bottom left corner of the screen. The stages themselves include various uninspired themes such as forest, fire and ice along some more unique ones like the interior of a cactus to name but one. Dynamic camera angles get up close with the action when DK smacks the living daylight out of a foe and pan out when you’re running full speed ensure that the pacing of the game is up to today’s standards. The music also fits the game very well. While there aren’t any big compositions to be heard each stage has it’s own tune that fits the general theme. A sweet little touch is the occasional chimpanzee band you’ll encounter, playing their own lively score as you swing by. Sound effects are implemented in a satisfactory manner and each enemy comes accompanied by its own squeak, crow or grunt. It’s quite a shame to see that the grunts emitted by DK himself and the four gorilla bosses are by far the least convincing sound effects in the whole game. The gameplay itself is designed to be genuine fun and to work well with the bongo controllers. As you’ve no doubt noticed, I have hardly spoken of the game’s most distinctive feature, namely the bongo shaped controller that comes packed with the game (optional). The reason for this is that it really works so well that there just is no need to bring it up. Running, jumping and boxing are performed by hitting the drums individually or simultaneously. Other actions are case sensitive and triggered by clapping your hands together - something that won’t make you very popular with those forced to live near you while you enjoy your daily dose of gaming. These simple commands eliminate the need for pixel-perfect control over your avatar and will have you bounce of ropes, swing from vines and navigate watery depths like it’s your second nature in no time. The fact that your banana-count doubles both as your high-score and health, combined with enemy placement based more on enabling you to rack up big scores then posing a threat to you, makes it very hard to die in Jungle Beat and the game shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge for anyone. In the end Jungle Beat provides us with an experience that everyone should be able to enjoy. The accessible mechanics and superb level design will comfort the less skilled, while the more experienced gamer will see a window for self-improvement and perfection in the high-scoring system. On the same note it needs to be said that the high-scoring system could have been implemented much better as there is little incentive to keep improving upon yourself once you have finished the game. A blast while it lasts.