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

Um Bongo

Donkey Kong has traded in his bongos for a Wii Remote and nunchuk - will he still be able to collect all of his coveted bananas or will he make a monkey of himself?

Prior to Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo EAD Tokyo had their hands full with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. This title was quite innovative for its time due to its unique control method - the game is played by plugging in a pair of bongos and pounding on them in order to navigate the game’s brilliant levels. Now, the project that was created by Nintendo's incredible Tokyo studio is getting a second chance via the New Play Control! line. While the innovative control scheme has been removed from this remake, the same formula that we’ve come to love is thankfully still present.

If you've never played Donkey Kong Jungle Beat before, this is a must-play platformer. And even if you have had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with this game when it was first released, it still might be a wise idea to rediscover it. The new control scheme makes the game feel like a totally new experience; the game has been stripped of DK Bongo support and has been retooled with a more traditional control scheme and motion controls.

The main objective of the game still remains intact: players control everyone’s favorite overgrown ape as he rampages through creative and obstacle-filled stages. Donkey Kong must explore levels, and at the end of each stage, he’ll earn himself a crown. The trick to all this is that he’s capable of acquiring multipliers for gathering bananas while air bound and for linking together combos without touching the ground. While novices will certainly be capable of blazing through levels, experts will want to explore all of the game’s secrets and experiment a little with the well-conceived and engaging combo system.

Donkey Kong will find himself running, jumping, squashing, and pounding as he makes his way through each level, and it certainly feels as though the game was heavily inspired by Rare's excellent Donkey Kong Country series. The amount of attention put onto environments is incredible, as are the little visual embellishments that add to the overall experience.

Despite being a remake of a Gamecube game, Jungle Beat still manages to put some developers to shame when it comes to the visuals. It’s pretty hard not to notice all the attention put on the fur-shaded characters, the detailed and vibrant backdrops, the fluid animation, and the constant framerate, which remains silky smooth throughout the game. Simply put, Jungle Beat is one of the prettiest games on Wii.

With that being said though, the transition from the Gamecube to the Wii certainly has both its ups and downs. Now that Donkey Kong is controlled by the nunchuk’s analog stick instead of a pair of bongos, the game feels a little different than it did four years ago. While the direct analog input adds precision to his movements and makes the game a lot easier to play, it almost feels as though the new control method doesn’t exactly live up to the standards set by the Gamecube version in some situations. One such example is boss fights. In the Cube edition, Donkey Kong's powerful punches were tied to the bongos and you literally smashed them to fight. Now though, you make the motions with the Wii Remote and nunchuk, and it’s not nearly as satisfying as it once was.

Although the tighter analog controls certainly take away from some of the excitement and enjoyment the original boasted, what Jungle Beat gains is accuracy and familiarity. For newcomers to the franchise, it’s a lot easier to pick up a Wii Remote and nunchuk and jump in on all the action than it is with the bongos. Donkey Kong’s moves are responsive throughout each of the game’s many levels, and even the notriously patchy motion controls work well enough that you won't usually notice any major shortcomings.

Above all though, Jungle Beat remains just as fun as it did four years ago. The amount of polish the game boasts is spectacular, as are the incredible level designs and impressive combo system. And while Nintendo has made some changes to some of the levels in order to better accommodate the new control mechanism, there are plenty of challenges.

While Jungle Beat proves that change is sometimes good, we'd like to have seen the game allow players to use their old DK Bongos. While the new control scheme works fine, it would be amazing if the ability was there for players to tear up the game’s many worlds the way it was meant to be played.

Conclusion

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the third title in Nintendo’s new line of 'Wiimakes' and boy, is it good. Everything there was to love about the original can be found here, including a handful of new content. The game excels in practically every department, and while it may only take a couple of hours to complete, it's filled with replay value. The lack of DK Bongo support is unfortunate, but not a deal-breaker. If you missed out on the Gamecube version, you owe it to yourself to pick up this must-play platformer.

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