Player participation in video games of late has started to go a step up from the 'up-down-left-left-punch' days. Sweaty competitions of Dance Dance Revolution draw crowds into mall arcades while the Playstation 2 EyeToy has had people leaping around in their basements for months. The latest entry in this nontraditional field is Nintendo's "Donkey Konga" for the Game Cube. This simple, addictive rhythm game isn't extensive or totally polished by any means; but make no mistake - there is more uncomplicated, straight-to-your-brain's-pleasure-center fun to be had here than in most video games.
All the action in "Donkey Konga" is controlled by the bongos packaged with the game. Left bongo, right bongo, a little microphone to sense clapping and a start button - that's it. The majority of the game includes matching different colored symbols with the action it corresponds to on the bongos as the symbols pass through a line on the left of the play screen. The symbols time up with the melody or the rhythm (what you're playing to can change quick, so pay attention) of the song playing. The better your timing on the bongos, the more you match up with the song and the faster your points rack up.
The learning curve in "Donkey Konga" is pretty much nonexistent, which proves to be a double-edged sword. You can pick up the bongos and start bashing away with a friend as soon as you can, but besides some slipshod mini-games tacked on as bonuses, the core game play doesn't really change. In Konga's defense, they frame the core action in enough different ways to give the game replay value. You can take your friends to school in battle mode, unlock new songs and challenges in street performance or just work on your video game musical stylings in the jam session.
And of course, there's a nice progression of difficulty levels: monkey for beginners, chimp for more experienced rhythm gamers and the truly insane gorilla level for those masters of the bongos. Like most rhythm games, true success lies not in learning the flow of the songs but in your pattern recognition skills with the rhythm symbols. At high enough difficulties, it begins to feel a little bit like cheating when you're paying more attention to those bright circles than the music.
The music is an eclectic, goofy mix of pop, children's classics and Nintendo themes. Some are a riot to hear and play out"you might remember the DK rap from Donkey Kong 64"while others fit unexpectedly well into the bongo tapping fun"the B-52's "Rock Lobster" is an interesting surprise. But some of the pop really comes out of nowhere; Blink-182's "All the Small Things" in a rhythm game with bongos and monkeys? No one could see that coming.
But the rest of the presentation can't keep up with the music, the bare-bones jungle backgrounds don't do much for the eyes and the animations look like they've been reused from a couple of Donkey Kong games ago, say in the SNES generation. The mini-games, including whack-a-mole style button mashers, leave a lot to be desired and don't conform nearly as well to the bongos as the core music game does.
"Donkey Konga" is essentially a love it or leave it game. If the core bongo action doesn't grip you right away then you can't expect to find much more from the big monkey and his pals. There's riotous fun to be had here, as you and a friend bash away to "Oye Como Va” or a host of other goofy tunes. The pace of the music really gets frantic at higher levels, and furiously beating on the drums to keep up is a blast. But if you can't get past the rough presentation and the absurdly simple premise, then maybe "Donkey Konga" isn't for you, in which case hand over the bongos - I want to give "Rock Lobster" another play through.
Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »