NOTE: This is a review of both versions of the game. More specifically, a review of the core game itself, which also details the differences between both versions, and which is better (if there is one). I added it to the NPC version because it seems more relevant.
I said I'd write a review for this game when I had the time, and here it is. The game neglected by many Nintendo fans because it required the seemingly-gimmicky and short-lived Bongo Controllers. However, beneath that skepticism-inducing exterior lies an extremely unique and inventive 2D platformer, with a combo system that's one of the most original ideals I've ever seen implemented in a game, and beautifully delicious graphics that are not too far behind the team's future, and much more recognized efforts - the Super Mario Galaxy games. If I ever made a list of most underrated games ever, Jungle Beat would place highly on it (omg spoilers of future gelatinous threads)
This game was the first true installment Nintendo's big ape starred in since Donkey Kong 64, which wasn't loved by everyone, and for good reason. Fans of the gorilla were longing for a chance to hang out in the Country again, and while DK's Beat in the Jungle is quite a departure from those SNES classics (both games star DK in a 2D environment, and are platformers, and there the similarities end, in my opinion), it's just as fun in its own way. The game reminds me of the recent Kirby's Epic Yarn, in the sense that, the player makes the game's difficulty as he plays. DK pulls it off better than Kirby, though, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Unlike the aforementioned Country outings, levels in DK Jungle Beat don't require insane platforming skills to beat. Those crazy designs, precise jumps and death traps you remember are not nearly as frequent in this game. Instead, the game revolves around a combo system, coupled with extremely intelligent levels, designed to test you to keep your combo going for as long as possible in ways you will not believe. What's the meat and vegetables (I don't like potatoes) behind this combo system, though? Surely you aren't stringing together combos just for the sake of doing so. Of course not. The idea is to collect as many bananas as possible in a level. The higher your combo number is, the more each banana you collect will be worth. You increase your combo number by performing cool tricks - backflips, ground pounds, swinging from vines, leaping off flowers, being spit by a metallic dragon, grabbing onto animals, and more. Sounds nice, doesn't it? However, here's the kicker, and the key of the game's challenge - you lose your entire combo if you touch the ground or take damage. I'll let you sink that in for a few sentences; we'll come back to this.
The game is divided up into several kingdoms. Each kingdom is composed of two levels and a boss fight. The amount of bananas the player is left with after toppling those three challenges determines the final score for that particular kingdom. You can pound through the entire game in 5 or 6 hours, but getting the highest score possible in all kingdoms (which essentially means mastering the combo system) can almost double your playtime. You're awarded a bronze, silver, gold or platinum crest in the Gamecube version, and one, two or three crests in the Wii version after you complete a kingdom depending on how many bananas you collected. You'll need a platinum or three crests in all the levels to complete the game 100%. Besides, like all good platformers, this game builds itself quite the replay value by simply being fun to replay the levels.
The game looks beautiful. The technology is great (fur-shading, what?), the art style is gorgeous and some of the character designs will make you smile with their originality. It's definitely behind the Mario Galaxy games in the attention to detail, and even behind the more recent Donkey Kong Country Returns due to the more simplistic backgrounds, but Jungle Beat has nothing to fear. The music is not quite on par with the graphics, but there's still plenty of decently catchy tunes. Of course the first level features a remix of Jungle Hijinx from the first Country game.
After all this text, there's probably one question on your mind - what system should you buy this game on? It's available both on Gamecube and on Wii. There's a few differences, some quite substantial, between both versions, but ultimately I don't think there's a better one. It comes down to preference. The Gamecube version is controlled with the Bongos, repeated taps on the right bongo makes DK run right, tapping on the left bongo makes him run left, tapping on both simultaneously makes him jump, and clapping makes him use his sound wave move. The Wii version, on the other hand, uses traditional controls. Analog stick to run, A to jump. Shaking the Wiimote activates DK's sound wave move, which can be directed in this version with the analog stick (up, down, left or right). In the Gamecube version it's just a big circular sound wave. It's easier to pull off the backflip in the Wii version thanks to being able to crouch with the Z button (A while crouching pulls off the backflip). In the Gamecube version, you have to run in one direction, then tap the other bongo and quickly tap both to do it. It's a little less convenient. The banana grab move, which you'll be doing VERY often, is done with the A button in the Wii version, whereas it's clapping on Gamecube, which gets a bit tiring.
The Wii version also features more stage hazards, such as trails of electricity, cacti, and moving platforms in an attempt to make the game more like a traditional platformer. Also with this goal, your life is determined by three hearts (once they run out you're dead, of course), whereas in the Gamecube version it was determined by your banana count, making it virtually impossible to die. These changes achieve their goal to an extent. This makes the game a bit more challenging, but the changes aren't substantial enough to make this a new Donkey Kong Country, and the focus is still on maintaining a huge combo system.
And, in the end, that's what turns a slightly above average platformer into a brilliant one. Some people say it is a slightly above average platformer, and it's clear those people simply don't dig the combo system. Blasting through an incredibly well-designed stage without touching the ground or getting hit once, being constantly on your toes to achieve that perfect score is an awesome feeling. And I truly mean it when I say this mechanic is unique, few games provide a feeling like this. On the other hand, if you don't care about scores, the game is little more than a breeze, which is why I compared it to Kirby's Epic Yarn in the beginning - you make the game's difficulty as you play. However, in Epic Yarn the difficulty lies in simply not getting hit, whereas in DK Jungle Beat it means playing the game in a completely different way. Many levels also feature animal buddies, such as flying squirrels, turtles, orcas, birds, and more that mix up the dynamic of the levels and help make the way the combo works in the levels they're featured in richer and more unique.
Jungle Beat is unlike anything I've ever played. It has some glaring flaws, namely recycled bosses (and when I say recycled, I mean it) and a few bland levels, but it's something platforming and Nintendo fans need to experience. It's not for everyone, as I mentioned, some don't fancy the combo system and there's no getting around the fact that if you don't, you won't like Jungle Beat very much. That aspect alone can completely make or break the game. But, as you could tell by this review, it completely made it for me, which is why I'm giving it my highest recommendation possible.
There's a lot more differences between both version than I thought. Actually, I didn't even think there was any other than the control system.
I agree about the review though. It was one of the GameCube's best games and I enjoyed it a lot, even more than Resident Evil 4 which I believe came out at around the same time. I guess it may not be for everyone but the highly addicting combo system and level design made it for an extremely fun game. And dammit, banging on those bongos was more fun than I ever expected it to be. I was skeptical of the control scheme but it's just one of those things you have to try before you pass on it.
I was a skeptic before I bought the game and even to a point after buying the game. When I learned how to effectively use and master the combo system, I was really, really impressed with the game. I owned the Gamecube version. I actually bought the game for my kids as an Easter present. I was the one who ended up playing the hell out of it. I honestly never would have dreamed that I would enjoy the bongo controllers as much as I did.
Like the OP stated, slapping your hands could become tiresome and the game really gave your hands and arms quite a workout! I remember my arms actually being sore after a heavy session of the game. And many times I wanted to keep on playing, but my arms were wore completely out! Though, by the time I had mastered the game my arms and hands were used to the punishment.
I have actually thought about buying the Wii version of DKJB just to see if it would be as fun using the wiimote. I have not had a chance to play the Wii version, but I am still thinking the Gamecube version would still be the most fun using the bongo controllers. I really was impressed with the bongos and never thought they would work as good as they as they should. I guess I should have never doubted Nintendo. Sure, Nintendo can put out a stinker every now and then, but overall, the stinkers are few and far in-between.
I would also recommend the game to everyone who is a Nintendo fan or even just a hardcore gaming fan. I thought mastering the combo system is what the game is really all about...cause there really was no challenge in actually making it to the end of the game. The challenge lies within mastering the combo system and achieving the best scores possible. What really sticks out for me is how the music and tempo would change when one would string together a bunch of combos...if I remember correctly there was like cheering or applauding in the background soundtrack that really made you feel like you just accomplished something really great!
I love love love this game. The combo-based platforming is so brilliant. I can't believe that it hasn't been stolen yet.
Ever since I learned that bouncing on successive enemies (or hitting two at the same time) in Super Mario Bros. gave you more points, I've been waiting for this game. The only thing that bugs me is the backflip on the bongos. It's not very reliable in the heat of the action. So I guess I'll have to pick up the Wii version one of these days.
Great review Gelatinous, I really like how you combine the Wii and GCN versions into one review and then directly compare the two versions. I didn't even know about some of the differences! But I haven't played the Wii version too much yet.
I'm surprised by your dislike of potatoes. The starch of life!
You know what I like about this game above all else? What a complete and total bad-ass DK is. He is completely unafraid and totally angry at any and every poor sap who gets in his way.