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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat review

What better way to soothe your mum's nerves than with some gentle drumming with GamesMaster?

Whunk. Clap. Whunk. Clap. Clap clap clap. Whunk whunk clap. WhunkawhunkawhunkawhunkaWHUNK.

The sound of one hand clapping? Nope. That's the noise of Jungle Beat, the loudest, craziest, most original game of the year. Your family, friends - and possibly, neighbours - are going to hate it. To be honest, they're probably going to hate you.

And yes, controlling a 2D platform game with a set of plastic bongos does sounds child-eatingly crazy - but bear with us on this one.

The controls are simple. Rolling either bongo makes Kong sprint. Both drums jumps, hitting them again in mid-air bops. Clapping initiates an action, like grabbing an explosive pineapple or punching a fish.

Basic, yes - but the beauty is in the way these bog-standard platform actions combine to form other effects.

In a typical combo, Kong might richochet off three walls (whunk), climb a flower (roll), swing from a vine (double-whunk), pilot a bird past some cannons (roll), grab some bananas (clap), stun a pig (clap) and then pound it in the face until it explodes into a shower of fruit (hammer the bongos like Keith Moon on crack).

Once you're used to it, it feels more natural than using a joypad.

It helps, of course, that this is a classic Ninty game, without an ounce of flabby design or an enemy out of place. Every bee and jellyfish serves a purpose, and every level introduces something new.

Soon, without noticing it, you're clearing entire areas with combos that'd shame Tony Hawk, clapping and thumping like a baby with a biscuit tin.

Each level contains a couple of hundred bananas, but it's possible to score quadruple that number by collecting them in one acrobatic line.

What's even more impressive is the variety of actions that clapping can trigger. For instance, when you're attacked by ninja monkeys, it activates a lightning strike that'll neutralise anything swinging a sword.

At this point, it's possible to flick a pig into the air and scissor-kick it into them for extra combo points. Beautiful.

Where those plastic bongos really come into their own, though, is the boss battles. All of these follow basically the same structure - you need to avoid or counter the enemy's attacks until they're vulnerable, then pound them as hard as you can.

There are only five types of boss, but shifting level design and beautiful design keeps the ultraviolence feeling fresh.

This is where you're really going to upset anyone sitting near you - hammering those bongos really does feel like pounding on a giant warthog (or whatever), and you'll do it until your palms go numb.

After several hours of heated play, we went to bed and woke up again with arms so stiff they could barely move. That's addictive gameplay.

Forget your plot-smothered stealth games and society-bothering gang war - Jungle Beat straddles the madness/genius divide like a giant ape, pounds its chest and shows you how games used to be.

It's a reminder of why Nintendo are so great, and actually far superior to the fairly limited Donkey Konga bongo game. Only its relative shortness (done in four hours) stops us recommending it to anyone with a pair of hands. Next up: Tekken with a guitar...

Donky Kong Jungle Beat is out on 4 February for Gamecube

More Info

DescriptionThe only game that makes you feel more ridiculous than Dance Dance Revolution. Combining platformer levels with a full arm workout is genius.
US censor ratingEveryone 10+
Release date14 March 2005 (US), (UK)