Imagine constantly beating on a pair of plastic bongos to keep Donkey Kong flipping and climbing through some of the prettiest landscape the side-scrolling genre has ever seen. It's like nothing you've played, we assure you. There should be a calorie counter on the bottom of the screen; if you're not sweating after a few stages of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, you're doing something wrong.
Pounding on the drums sends DK right or left, and hitting both simultaneously makes him jump. Thanks to the controller's microphone, clapping your hands causes DK to reach for enemies or usable objects like birds or vines.
The goal is to reach the end of each area with the most fruit possible, but to blow out the banana combo counter you’ll have to beat those drums like crazy. The longer you stay in the air, lunging from vine to rock to bridge, the higher your combo will be when you finally touch down. Latching onto multicolored birds can keep DK floating along even longer, so keep your teary, sweaty eyes open.
Once the levels are bested, it’s time to face a one-on-one boss battle. Most are a matter of detecting an enemy's attack pattern but still require incessant beating of the drums. The best fights are those with rival Kong clan members, which play like a high-noon Western duel. Clapping your hands dodges a punch and counterattacks, but the fists are flying so fast that some of the later scraps are a whirlwind of punches and feints.
It’s a shame the bosses repeat as often as they do, and making small movements proves tricky. Yet getting everyone in the room to take a crack at the bongos is worth the cash by itself. However, if you’re really good (and on the biggest sugar high of your life), you could breeze through the whole thing in a day or two.
There’s no multiplayer available either, so once you’ve completed the levels there’s little to lure you back, save even more partying with buds who want another shot at beating their highest score. Getting those high scores is more physical than normal games, so that may hold your attention longer than a typical action title.
Nintendo’s Revolution is promising something crazy unique, but for now the bongo controllers offer enough gameplay diversity to show that the innovator has its heart in the right place: making games accessible and exciting for everyone. Jungle Beat may be the only game to make good use of the bongos, but it does one hell of a job.