When Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat came out on the GameCube, it was a surprising creation; a game that used the bongo peripheral from the rhythm game Donkey Konga as a unique controller for a platformer. It was a strange idea that worked, although I found pounding on the drums would make my palms sore. In New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Nintendo has dropped the bongos and the attending pain in favor of a straightforward Wii control scheme that proves you don’t need to hit a plastic drum to have fun.
The Controls: Remove the Central Gimmick Without Losing the Feel
In Jungle Beat you guide Kong through a series of colorful environments filled with peculiar monsters that can be vanquished by Kong’s powerful sonic clap. Every once in a while he encounters a particularly tough monster who must be beaten with a mix of strategy, puzzle solving and sharp reflexes. The game offers some sort of reason for why Kong is running through the jungle, but it is so irrelevant, and mentioned so casually, that I forgot what it was five minutes after being told. Ultimately, this is just a run through the jungle.
Nintendo’s New Play Control games are all about retrofitting old games with Wii control schemes, and it is interesting to see how Jungle Beat manages this. Some unique mechanics have simply been tossed out; in the original game you moved Kong right by hitting the right bongo, while in this version you use traditional analog stick movement control. Similarly jumping is less unique. Other controls have simply been modified; instead of making Kong clap by hitting your bongo, you now do the same action by flicking the remote.
Clapping is a central component of Jungle Beat. Jump up to a monkey on a floating platform and clapping will make him toss you up higher, while a watermelon hurled at you can be redirected towards an enemy with a well-timed clap.
Conclusion: Less Distinctive but Still Terrific
The original Jungle Beat was a solid, well-designed game, and removing the bongo drum gimmick does nothing to change that. At the same time, the New Play Control version is somewhat less distinctive than the previous version, trading the original’s unique control scheme for something relatively conventional. This doesn’t mean it’s any less fun, but all things considered it’s still cooler to play the game with bongos.
If you’ve never played the original, that’s not going to matter; all you’re going to know is that the new version is one of the most fun and best looking platformers for the Wii. And you’ll never realize that you’re missing one of the most distinctive features of the original; red, sore palms.