North America

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

by Michael Cole - March 22, 2005, 12:30 am PST


Donkey Kong one-ups Mario in this incredible old-school platformer.

When Rare and Nintendo split up, gamers figured DK's platforming days were over. When Nintendo and Namco introduced Donkey Konga, we figured that, like other music game peripherals, the DK bongos would be tied exclusively to that series. Well, Nintendo has proven us wrong on two accounts: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the real reason to own those dinky drums.

Playing Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is deceptively simple. Tapping one of the drums makes DK walk or run in the corresponding direction. Hitting both makes him jump and, when in midair, ground pound. Banging the drums unevenly will either make DK perform a running jump or a back-flip jump, depending the direction and drum order. Clapping (or smacking the drums) makes DK pound his chest or reach for nearby bananas, enemies, or other interactive elements. The game includes animal buddies, though Rambi and his friends have been forsaken. Kingdoms are unlocked by earning medals, but the average gamer will earn enough of them to reach the credits in four hours with minimal backtracking. DKJB isn't as short as some proclaim, though: unlocking all of the bonus kingdoms requires much more work.

Players earn medals by mastering the game's moves and levels. DK earns beats (points) by snagging bananas and pummeling enemies. Completing the kingdom is worth a bronze, and completing it with four hundred or eight hundred beats is worth a silver or gold, respectively. The elusive platinum medal is awarded to bongo-masters who can rack up an impressive 1200 beats. Beats also double as DK's life, encouraging high-score seekers to attack without sustaining damage. The game's combo system is vital in earning high scores. By performing various aerial moves, DK can rack up the combo meter, which multiplies beats earned while in midair by the number of combo moves. Many of the game's levels are designed with combos in mind, letting skilled gamers build huge combos spanning great distances. Beats tallied during an aerial combo are only added to DK's total when he lands; if DK is hurt before then, his points will disappear in the blink of an eye. This risk-versus-reward system can escalate the game to nerve-wracking, bongo-smashing proportions—good thing those bongos are perfect for anger ventilation.

The game's clever level design harkens back to a simpler time and is the primary reason why gamers will continue to play this game. Levels are well-paced with a nice balance between enemy-pounding and platforming. Fans of Sonic games will get a kick out of racing through the game's levels for time records. In addition to the combo accommodations, each level has hidden coves, cubbies, crannies and corridors to explore. Sometime secrets are shortcuts, while others are beat boosters, but searching for them can really extend the game's lifespan. The game displays a tip to improve scores at the end of each level, aiding ambitious adventurers in their quest for greater scores.

Jungle Beat's visual style is a delicious conglomeration of graphical elements from various Nintendo GameCube games. Its crispness and overall presentation highly resemble Super Smash Bros. Melee, while various special effects (such as the curly clouds from The Wind Waker) contribute additional flair. Environments are surprisingly varied and detailed. Jungles are lush with swaying greenery, volcanic caves harbor bubbling lava pits, and ocean waves glisten in the sun. The organic environments and enemies are beautifully animated, too. Willows sway under DK's weight, lava geysers spew and splash believably fatal goop, and downed baddies poof into clouds of smoke.

The level count is a tad low, but the game's redundant bosses are much more disappointing. Each level ends with a boss battle. Sadly, instead of creating an arsenal of villains, Nintendo shamefully opted to recycle the same bosses throughout game's sixteen main levels. The boxing fights against enemy gorillas play like simple rounds of Punch-Out, each enemy Kong having a different pattern to learn. The other three types of bosses are more traditional platformer bosses and are almost identical at each encounter. The developers attempted to vary the battles by increasing the viciousness of the enemy attacks and altering the arena layout, but these efforts are futile. The lack of boss variety is a giant blotch in what is otherwise a perfectly-realized game.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat isn't a Donkey Kong Country game, and it doesn't pretend to be one. The game does not have many levels by platformer standards, and its bosses are a let-down, but the levels are undeniably well-designed. Arcade-style gamers who appreciate time trials and score meters should most definitely buy this fantastic game, and anyone with a pair of DK Bongos should give it a rental.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
10 9 9 9 8 9

Jungle Beat merges many of Nintendo's colorful styles into one hip look that is uniquely its own. DKJB shows just how well Nintendo knows its system after more than three years of tinkering.


DKJB has a fantastic soundtrack. Whether the song is quirky, catchy, peaceful or melodramatic, it feels natural and is always high quality. DK and the other animals grunt and roar without becoming a nuisance.


Platforming with bongos certainly takes some adjustment, but once mastered, the drum controller adds an incredibly enjoyable new twist to the genre. You can use a standard controller, but it is unadvised.


Jungle Beat's unique controls and brilliant level design make for an engrossing experience. Improving scores and times is not for everybody, but anyone who plays through this game will have fun. It is a shame it relies so heavily on carbon-copy bosses, though.


If you liked Sonic Advance and were not bothered by its brevity, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a perfect choice. Most gamers will have unlocked all eighteen kingdoms after about twelve hours, but time trial and high-score buffs will practice DKJB's levels to perfection.


Donkey Kong Jungle Beat proves that Nintendo still knows how to make a damn good side-scroller. Its levels are few, but each has been crafted with incredible care. The game's quirky bongo controls and astounding presentation round out one of Nintendo's best platformers ever.


  • Addictive platforming
  • Beautiful environments
  • Great music
  • Refined level design
  • Nearly-identical boss fights
  • Only sixteen full levels
  • Playing quietly is nigh impossible
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Nintendo
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Release Mar 14, 2005
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Release Dec 16, 2004
RatingAll Ages
eu: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Release Feb 04, 2005
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