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Sean Pettibone

Donkey Konga (Gamecube)


By Michael Palisano

Taking rhythm games deep into the jungle beat, Nintendo's addictive Donkey Konga for the Gamecube offers players a varied music game that's easy to play yet surprisingly challenging. The game's unique DK Bongo controllers consist of two drums and also allows players to clap their hands to the rhythm of each song in the game. There are dozens of gameplay modes and mini-games which extend Donkey Konga's replayability and challenge. While it's single-player mode is fun, the real challenge comes with multiplayer modes, where up to four players can compete. This is where the game shines. Join us as we go explain why Donkey Konga's simple, accessible gameplay makes it one of the Gamecube's best party games.

Donkey Konga is an excellent addition to the rhythm genre that offers players plenty of challenge and a variety of gameplay modes. Using the famous Donkey Kong characters, players will find a fun and engaging title with plenty of replay value. Like most other music titles, the action is fairly straightforward, though with a few twists. Your main task is to hit the drums on the DK Bongos controller in time to the beats of the song. This is a bit trickier than it sounds, but there are some helpful training stages to help you get the basic timing down. As you play, a series of icons begins to scroll from the right side of the screen. When they reach the target area on the left side of the screen, you hit the Konga controllers. It's important to pay attention to them show whether players will need to hit the left or right controller, or hit them simultaneously. Players can also clap their hands at certain points that adds to the challenge. The beats come rather slowly at the earlier stages, but become more rapid as you play the game's latter stages. As you hit each note, your score increases, and likewise falls when you miss a beat. Players are also rated by how closely they hit each note and earn higher scores for accuracy. You should pay attention to the songs and learn their patterns, which helps immensely in gaining high scores. In order to complete a song, you have to finish with a score above the preset levels, which is fairly easy to do in the earlier stages, but much harder later on. The increasing difficulty is gradual, allowing players to slowly build up their skills for the more complex areas. As you complete songs and stages, you'll earn points and higher skill rankings which you can use to purchase additional items at the store. Skilled players can earn loads of bonuses including extra drum beat sounds, unlock additional stages and mini games and extra songs.

While the basic gameplay is relatively straightforward, Donkey Konga offers a variety of modes that extend the game's longevity. The game's addictive Street Perfomance mode offers the most straightforward gameplay of all the modes and is probably the one you'll spend the most time playing. Your object here is to perform each song and earn coins, when you complete each song successfully, you earn the right to keep any coins you have earned, which you can then use in DK Town to purchase additional items. In Challenge mode, players have to complete a succession of songs in a row. This isn't as easy as it sounds since small mistakes early seem to loom much larger later on. You begin the Challenge mode with a full health meter, which goes down when you miss beats and clap points. However, at the end of each song, the challenge meter grows slightly. You can keep playing as long as there is still energy in your life meter. The game also includes a two player Battle mode, which allows you to compete head-to-head against another player with gameplay similar to Street Perfomance. Each of these modes has various difficulty levels, with the higher difficulty settings offering more challenge and greater rewards for completion. For expert players, the most challenging mode is the Jam mode, where barrels roll by without the icons telling you to drum or clap, which makes it more difficult. This isn't to be confused with the Jam Session mode, where players can play with three others and drum through each track in a freestyle mode. Finally, players can play one of the three mini-games in the DK Arcade mode, which are all fairly simple but highly enjoyable exercises including juggling, vine climbing and more. These various modes give Donkey Konga plenty of variety and challenge and make for a highly enjoyable game.

Its rhythm-action gameplay itself is fantastic, but Donkey Konga wouldn't be nearly as stellar without its unique controllers. The DK Bongos themselves are smartly designed drums which offer responsive controls yet remain simple and easy to understand. Both drum pads on the controller offer excellent tactile feedback, yet are soft on the hands. You don't have to hit the pads that hard in order to get a response, gentle tapping is just as effective as hitting the pads hard, and probably easier on the hardware as well. The clap-recognition technology is also superb, though we found our hands somewhat sore after extended sessions. Players can get around this by shouting into the microphone, which helps relieve the stress. However, some will probably call this cheating, but the object here is to have fun, not destroy your palms. Donkey Konga also works with a standard GCN controller, but this makes things too easy and isn't nearly as fun as playing the game with the Bongos.

To call Donkey Konga's music lineup eclectic would be a massive understatement. The selection of songs in the game veers wildly from children's nursery rhymes, to classic pop hits to current tracks. There's also a selection of classic Nintendo themes from Super Mario Brothers to Pokemon and Zelda. This gives Donkey Konga a strange personality, as you veer from genre to genre without much warning in certain modes. While the array of tracks is impressive in terms of genre, the amount of depth is wanting, as certain genres such as techno and hard rock are only represented by a single track. However, most of the songs in the game are full-length and the game itself seems to track the beats of each track fairly closely, though some placements of beat points seem a bit weird. From a graphics standpoint, Donkey Konga doesn't offer much in the way of visuals, aside from some balloons and stars that fill the screen when you hit a succession of notes. Most of the animation occurs at the edges of the screen, and seems fairly pedestrian. Still, most players don't play rhythm titles for the visuals, and Donkey Konga offers a decent presentation.

Donkey Konga isn't going to win any awards for innovation in the rhythm genre, but the addictive and surprisingly challenging gameplay will keep you and your friends occupied for many hours. While the standard gameplay modes are enjoyable, the real fun of the game comes when you add other players and more complex modes to the mix. While the instantly accessible gameplay seems a little bit too simple at first, Donkey Konga offers plenty in the way of difficulty at later stages and the extra modes really make the game. The overall quality means is definitely a worthwhile purchase that should please rhythm fans, with the biggest problems mainly coming in the somewhat varied yet shallow selection of music tracks. However, this is a relatively minor quibble considering how much fun the game is to play that effectively fills the music game gap on the Gamecube console. Donkey Konga is a solidly designed title that should appeal to gamers of all ages and abilities, making it an excellent choice for parties and social get-togethers.

Grade: B

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