For those of you out there who aren't familiar with it, Jungle Speed is a unique card game that's recently become quite popular among card game fans. It’s essentially one of the "first one to get rid of all their cards" style and not only requires the players to be very observant, but also to have fast reflexes. So how does this card game translate into a WiiWare release and does it manage to retain all of the trademark gameplay of the original card game?
Jungle Speed features a very simple set of rules. Every player is dealt an equal number of symbol cards which feature unique designs. Each design comes in four different colours. The first player turns over and plays the top card on their draw pile and this continues around the table one player after another. When another player at the table plays a symbol card that matches the card currently face up in front of you, a duel begins. At this point both of you have to quickly attempt to grab the wooden totem statue in the middle of the playing area. The first one to successfully grab the totem wins the duel and the losing player must take all of the cards that have been played between the two players involved in the duel. Occasionally there will be other unique cards such as the "Fast Grab" or "Colour Match" cards that force unique duels. A "Fast Grab" card forces everyone that has currently played at least one symbol card to quickly try to grab the totem. A "Colour Match" card forces any players that have matching coloured symbol cards into a duel. The game ends when one player is able to rid themselves of all their cards.
For the most part the WiiWare version of Jungle Speed looks and plays just like the real card game. Up to 8 players can play at one time with one player using the Wii Remote and another player using the attached Nunchuk. Turning over cards is done by pressing the "A" button on the Wii Remote and pressing any direction on the analogue stick on the Nunchuk. Reaching for the totem is done by simply shaking the Wii Remote or Nunchuk and then pressing the "B" or "Z" buttons on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk respectively to grab onto the totem. The control scheme works quite well in accurately simulating the feeling of grabbing for the totem and even faking a grab is easily executed. The game even throws in a few new twists such as the ability to play a single-player game, not to mention some of the cool visual hindrances the game tosses out like the fog that can make the symbol cards difficult to see. It's little things like this that actually makes the game even better than the original card version at times. It's clear that the developers put a lot of time and thought into the control system of Jungle Speed and the end result is well worth it. It would have been nice to have an online play feature, but given the fact that you can still play with up to 8 local players, it's difficult to complain too much.
The visuals in the game are actually fairly impressive. The backgrounds look a little bland at times, but the characters show a good amount of detail, although they are a bit on the blocky side. In truth you'll spend the majority of your time staring at a stone table with animal hands and cards on it, so the backgrounds play a very minor role in the overall scheme of things anyway. The menus are all very well designed and you'd be hard-pressed to find any faults with the overall visual presentation. There are even several different totems to choose from, each with their own unique animations. It might have been nice to have had a few more stone tables to choose from, but given the overall theme of the game, it's a very small omission in what is an otherwise solid visual experience.
The aural experience is an interesting bag. On one hand the music itself is very catchy and has a nice jungle-themed feel to it, complete with some very nicely done background vocals. The only gripe could be that most of the tunes are so similar in style and tempo that it can be difficult to differentiate between the various tracks. They're almost akin to one long song that changes hooks and melodies in different places. That being said, it is safe to say that if you like island-themed music, you're in for a real treat, as the music is quite catchy. The really cool animal sound effects also help matters as they pop up from time to time to liven things up a bit. The character voices are a bit silly, but it could be argued that they fit the circumstances when they pop up. It is worth noting that the game does feature a settings menu that will allow you to customize the volume levels of the various music and sound effects to your liking, which is a very welcome feature.
It would be easy to dismiss Jungle Speed simply because it is, at its core, basically a video game version of an entertaining card game, but if you do you'll be missing out on a wildly addictive game that you and your entire family can enjoy. In fact, the more people you can get to play the game, the more fun it becomes. While the presentation is solid, especially for a WiiWare title, it's the authentic feel of the gameplay that ends up making Jungle Speed the enjoyable experience it is. The game is probably not going to convert you if you're not already a card game fan, but if you do happen to enjoy the "real world" version of the game, you'll likely find this to be a suitable alternative, and in some ways you may even find this superior to the real thing. The 1000 Wii Point price tag is a bit steep for a game of this type, but given that the real card game itself costs at least twice that, it's actually a fairly nice bargain when you think about it in those terms.