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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat’ brings a visceral innovation

Maria Smith | Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Looking for a totally original gaming experience?”Donkey Kong Jungle Beat” definitely meets the order. Only Nintendo would think to harness the power of the bongo drum in controlling their well-loved cartoon ape. The result is fantastic – nothing in the world of video games is quite as visceral as beating bongos and clapping your way to becoming the new king of the jungle.You can play “Jungle Beat” with a regular controller instead of the bongo drums, but don’t bother. Playing with a controller does not even approach playing with the bongos. It can be difficult to master the controls of a new game, and “Jungle Beat” can certainly be tricky. But unlike multi-player shooter games, in which not knowing the controls can mean dying three times in two minutes, putzing around in “Jungle Beat” is almost as fun as playing when you actually know what you’re doing. The early levels are forgiving of players who are still figuring out what combination of beats makes Donkey Kong jump, explode enemies or scale walls.You might be tempted to take a break when your hands start to sting from clapping and your shoulders get sore from trying to collect bananas or explode warthogs as fast as possible. Hand the drums off and enjoy the spectacle of your friends intently bongo-drumming – it’s almost as fun as playing the game yourself. If you feel like goofing around more than speeding through the levels, you can even try a unique two-player arrangement. Put one person on drum duty while the other takes care of the clapping, and see what you can get done.Some modern incarnations of older characters are put into 3-D and look so different from the originals that they lose some of their nostalgic value. “Jungle Beat” latches onto the nostalgic value of the 2-D Donkey Kong at the same time that it latches onto the appeal of innovation with the controller. The resulting graphics aren’t fabulous, but they certainly do the job.Ironically, one of the biggest problems with this game is that once you’ve really mastered the controls, there’s not all that much challenge to the game. It’s fun to see how long you can stay airborne, especially since longer air time jumping from walls to vines to oversized flowers earns you bonus bananas, but if you’ve worked your way through the lower levels, there’s not much chance of sustaining serious damage in the higher ones. Hopefully Nintendo will come out with a more challenging sequel to “Jungle Beat” soon, so that the new drumming skills of gamers won’t go to waste.”Jungle Beat” is likely to find a wide audience of kids – this is about as harmless as games come and is one of the few that will actually get your heart-rate going. But “Jungle Beat” is also a great novelty for older gamers and a fun foray for dabblers who want to play something exciting without mastering the more complicated 3-D games and controls. This is also a great party game – almost anyone will enjoy picking it up for at least a brief try.So if you’re one of the loyal Nintendo fans who owns a GameCube, make sure you pick up Nintendo’s most creative recent innovation.