By Angela Hinck / March 9th, 2015
|Release Date||February 10, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
Rhythm games have been a favorite genre of mine for years. Whether I’m playing a dancing game or something that has you tapping along on a touch screen, a well-made rhythm game can keep me hooked for hours at a time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a good game in this genre that brings together innovation, good music and functional gameplay. Disco Pixel’s Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas immediately caught my attention, and I had a lot of hope for it going in. Did it live up to all those expectations?
The story of Jungle Rumble is pretty basic. You play as something called Great Spirit, which has been sent to help a tribe of monkeys called the Mofongo defend themselves from another group of angry monkeys called the Kagunga, which are looking to steal their bananas. Your main point of communication is their Sage, a wide old monkey who presents the opening tutorial and gives you guidance as the game goes on.
The first thing that really stands out about Jungle Rumble is its design. The game has a 1960’s vibe going for it, from the bright colors to the fonts used and the whole round, bubbly feel of it. I absolutely loved these graphics. There’s nothing complicated about them, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s easy to tell apart enemy monkeys from your own during gameplay. There’s always something moving in the menus, like bubbles of color floating across the screen, and the environments during gameplay are eye-catching without being distracting. Overall, it’s a really good-looking game.
But how does it play? You direct your monkeys by tapping the screen in a particular pattern to a set beat. I say beat instead of music purposefully, as there is actually no real music in this game. You are always playing to a drumbeat with the occasional new sound thrown in to shake things up, and it reminded me more of the metronome setting on an electric keyboard than anything. I did think it was an interesting touch that the added sounds matched whatever setting I was playing in at the time. The beat also serves its purpose in giving you something keep pace with, so it gets the job done. There are different combinations of taps to get monkeys to do different things, all of which must be done to the rhythm. If you miss a beat, you miss your move. Thankfully, waiting it out can also be an option, so you don’t necessarily get penalized for doing nothing while you consider your next step. Monkeys can move one space at a time, two spaces at a time or throw coconuts depending on your direction. You can also collect several monkeys into your group to carry more coconuts at once around the playing field.
This gameplay is super addictive and could be fun, but it did have its hiccups. The controls — both in-game and on the map — were very unresponsive, which is a very negative thing in a game based on timing. I sometimes had to tap a button several times for it to work, and I had to start many levels over while trying to get a better ranking because my taps weren’t registering. While playing, the screen slowly pans upward as an incentive to not sit for too long, which I had very little trouble with most of the time. However, if you are going faster than the screen can pan, you’ll find yourself sitting for several series of beats — sometimes as many as 12 beats, which is quite a while in this game — waiting for the next part of the level to be revealed. The game would sometimes try to speed the panning up to keep up with me, but it didn’t always, which really broke my rhythm unnecessarily. The worst issue I came across was some lag in one particularly busy level. The panning would start to slow, the beat would skip minutely and about half of my taps wouldn’t register. The level is nearly unplayable this way. There were other instances of lag, but they were mostly when loading new screens or restarting a level. Worst of all, the game crashed twice on me (thankfully, no save data was lost). Clearly there are some bugs that could still be worked out.
Even with these issues, though, the game can be enjoyable and will have you itching to go back to levels over and over again to try and get a Gold ranking. Your goal in any level is to either get to a bundle of bananas or take out all of the enemies by throwing coconuts. If you get caught by an enemy monkey or the slowly panning screen catches up to you, it’s Game Over, and you have to start over. Other than this basic requirement to pass, there are three other things you must do in order to get the best ranking: finish the level under a certain amount of time, knock out all enemies and finish with all your monkeys intact. Do all of these, and you get Gold; two of them, Silver; one of them, Bronze. I liked that the time limit wasn’t a mandatory thing. It lets you take your time to figure out the best way through a level, and there was a surprising amount of strategy that went into some of these levels.
Strategy was especially important in the later levels when more difficult enemies were introduced. At the start, enemy monkeys move in a predetermined path and don’t veer from it. As the game progresses, more difficult enemies are introduced that will follow you and take a different route every time you attempt a level. Speed and accuracy are especially important then, particularly if you want that better ranking. Different abilities, types of enemies and environmental hazards are introduced throughout the game, but many of the most interesting were saved until the very end when the game was almost over. I would have liked to have seen some of those utilized more to liven things up.
Levels that have already been finished can be accessed from the main menu. You can go back to ones you’ve already played to try and do better, but there was one problem with this that I encountered; you can only go back into a level you’ve already finished. This might not sound too bad, but consider this: let’s say you were in the middle of playing one level, but found it difficult and wanted to take a break. You turn off your Vita and come back to it later. It would make sense that you could just turn on your Vita and go straight back to that particular level, but that’s not the case. Instead, you have to play and beat whatever level came before it to be able to attempt the one you left off on. This was a frustrating oversight. Also, the map is broken up into three different parts that have several levels within each of them. After getting to the last map, I started to backtrack to get better scores on old levels; but, every time I went back to the map from a level in the first environment, it would put me back on the final map instead of the one I was playing from. Again, a minor, but frustrating blip.
Jungle Rumble is a game that had a lot of promise, but fell short in a few key areas. The gameplay could be more polished and responsive, it could have been longer (I got around three hours of gameplay out of it), and it could have included some music or more innovative sound effects to make it more enjoyable as a rhythm game. Was it fun, though? When it was playing well, yes. I think the puzzle aspects of the game were well thought out and presented just enough of a challenge. Unfortunately, the technical issues don’t allow this game to live up to its full potential. If you want to give it a try, Jungle Rumble is available for $5 on PSN.
Review Copy Supplied by Publisher.
Disco PixelJungle Rumble