Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Play Control!: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (Wii) Review

I had this review planned for the past two weeks, but I fell ill. Regardless, here it finally is-- my review of New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

Rumble in the Jungle All Over Again

A little known development team created a fresh new platforming bonanza which utilized a special bongo peripheral. This project was the cult-classic known as Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the Nintendo Gamecube. This same team's next project was a game you may or may not have heard of. It's something called Super Mario Galaxy, and this development team is none other than Nintendo EAD 1, the premiere first-party team under Nintendo's arsenal of capable developers. It's 2009 and the New Play Control line of Gamecube games remade with Wii controllers in mind have already made their assault on Wii consoles with varying degrees of success. It's Donkey Kong Jungle Beat's time to get a second chance in the spotlight, but this time, the bongos are nowhere to be found. Is this bongo-less version of Jungle Beat one you'll go bananas for?

In the original Donkey Kong Jungle Beat your controller was a controller shaped like a pair of bongo drums. Smacking the left drum would move Donkey Kong left whereas drumming on the right drum would move him right funnily enough. Pouncing upon both drums at the same time would make DK leap into the air, and clapping or tapping the rims of the bongos to attack enemies or grab banana bunches within reach. The New Play Control version tosses aside these bongo controls with no option to use them. That makes sense as it'd defeat the purpose of having Wii controls, but that's all lost if the new control set-up is a hindrance (see: NPC: Mario Power Tennis). Thankfully, this is nowhere near the case with this Wii-make.

Leap on a foe, and pummel 'em into submission.

Jungle Beat now controls like a more traditional platformer as instead of banging a drum or direction to move DK, you just use the nunchuk's analog stick. Parts of the game that required extremely tight precision are less daunting as with the analog stick you feel that you have much more control over the rambunctious ape. Jumping is relegated to the A button while grabbing 'nanas and beating down baddies are assigned to alternating strikes with the Wii remote and nunchuk. It can get tiring, especially during boss fights, but it feels rather good overall. Plus your hands don't become raw after hours of time that flies by. Unless, of course, you're clapping for the heck of it.

There are around 18 or so kingdoms to explore in Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Each kingdom has two fair-in-length levels followed by a boss encounter. The basic goal of each kingdom is to make it from start-to-finish and take down the kingdom's malevolent monstrosity in order to reclaim the land in the name of all that is right, pure, and banana-craving in the world. However, the real fun and the only way to see the true ending of the game is to collect enough bananas to earn crests. Bananas are scattered all about the levels in Jungle Beat, but there's more to it than just collecting them. If Donkey Kong performs a combo, his bananas collected are multiplied by 2,3,4, and however how he can go before his combo ends. A combo is maintained and boosted by performing completely different aerial moves in one combo such as wall jumps, rope swings, flying on a helibird, ground pounds, and much more. A combo ends when DK touches the ground. The strategy is to find the best way to chain combos in order to accumulate a bounty of bananas. It's entirely possible in later levels to start a combo and maintain it throughout the duration of a level. The immense intelligence of the level designers is immediately apparent as there's not just one way to score as many bananas as possible. There's ways that you'll probably overlook or not even think of until you see the many "Try This" videos that play at the conclusion of each kingdom.

Secret areas are common, so explore a bit!

At each kingdom's finale, you are put up against one of the game's many boss encounters. All of the bananas you've acquired from the past two levels are totaled up and serve as DK's health for the fight. Each time DK is hit, a bunch of bananas are lost. Reach zero, and your main monkey goes down for the count. There's two types of boss fights. The first feels very much like Punch-Out! lite. Your opponent gives you a tell of when they're about to attack, you dodge the attack, and the boss is temporarily vulnerable to a flurry of furry and fiery fists, performed by motion controls of the Wii remote and nunchuk. As the boss' health goes down, his pattern becomes faster and more unpredictable. The second type of boss is a traditional 2D platforming escapade against one of three different bosses. These three different bosses repeat throughout the game but with additional tricks. Regardless, many of the encounters do feel recycled somewhat. Once the boss is vanquished, your banana total is tallied up. Depending on how many yellow gods of fruity awesomeness you obtained, you'll earn up to three crests. Earn three crests in a set of kingdoms, and you unlock a bonus kingdom full of brand-new and more challenging levels.

What goes on in a meeting like this?
"Let's put a chicken head on a spiked plant root."

In the Gamecube original, throughout each level, bananas were Donkey Kong's life meter in the game. Each time DK would get damaged, he'd lose a handful of his favorite fruit. This made trying to get platinum crests (by getting over 1,000 bananas in a kingdom) a bit difficult later on. In the New Play Control version, Donkey Kong has a trio of hearts serving as his life. Lose all three hearts, and you have to start the level from the beginning of the level or from a checkpoint. In the original you could throw caution to the wind in completing levels as if you had enough bananas, you could get hit dozens of times. This obviously isn't the case in the Wii offering meaning certain sections of the later levels are quite challenging as you don't have as much of a safety net. Each heart you have left at the end of a level adds fifty bananas to your score which makes getting a high banana count not as hard as it was in the bongo-fueled original.

New animal friends help in many of the game's levels.

It's not really a question of which being better when it comes to the Gamecube or Wii versions. It comes to being different. Not only have certain game elements been changed, a new boss rush mode has been added to the Wii version and many of the levels of the NPC game have been altered to accommodate the new Wii controls, so the two titles feel very much different to each other. This isn't "bad" different either. It's just two individual and fantastic gaming experiences regardless of which version you choose.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat did not have much fanfare when it was originally released. It came out near the end of the Gamecube's life cycle, and it was on a console that did not have nearly enough excitement from many gamers and the public in general. Now Jungle Beat has been given a second life, and now it's on a platform which many more owners. If you missed out on the Gamecube or the original Jungle Beat, swing on over and pick this budget-priced game up. It's an enjoyable and creative game worthy of the title of "classic".

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]


The Dread Pirate Guy said...

Good review. I've been somewhat on the fence for this, but now I'm a little more inclined to pick this up.

After I get through more Punch-Out!! of course.

Unknown said...

Just a note that really means nothing: I would have given the game a higher score had I never played the original.

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

Considering that I missed this one on the Gamecube, it may be one of those "ignorance is bliss" advantages for me where I can look at it with fresh eyes and no preconceptions.

Either way, it's still a good score.