Game: Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas
Developer: Disco Pixel
Publisher: Disco Pixel
Release Date: Feb 10, 2015
Platforms: (PS Vita)
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
A copy of Jungle Rumble was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Rhythm games aren’t exactly plentiful as of late. There are closets all across the globe full of plastic guitars, drumsets and USB microphones that can attest to just how “boom or bust” the genre can be. The only series of note making waves in the US at the moment? Project DIVA featuring the Vocaloid sensation, Hatsune Miku. There are, however, still titles popping up here and there that seek to harness the power of the beat to propel their game forward. Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas from Disco Pixel is one of those hopefuls even going so far as fusing together rhythm and puzzle game into a banana-fueled simian trip of percussive beats.
The game, originally released for mobile platforms (iOS/Android) in 2014, can only be played on the PS Vita by turning the device vertically. Gameplay consists of tapping on the Vita’s front touchscreen to the constant beat of a drum keeping 4/4 time. It is a novelty, at first, to hold the device as such but really it’s just a thin veneer for a somewhat lacking port of what should have probably remained a mobile game.
Jungle Rumble features a tribe of monkeys of the Mofongo tribe who are under siege by the Kagunga apes, wild red apes pilfering bananas from the good Mofongos left and right. The only way to right the wrongs of the Kagunga? Move to the beat. Stages are divided into subsections of jungle that scroll along automatically. Our heroic monkeys must move from leaf to leaf, propelled by a tap of the finger to that aforementioned 4/4 timing. Things start off simple enough with one to two apes to worry about but as the levels progress in difficulty as more Kagunga are introduced. They can be dealt with via coconuts, “hot steps” and more. Successful taps to the drum beat build up “Mojo” that can be used to move more monkeys down the line. Later levels force the player to pick and choose which path to trek down (or up) to hopefully best the Kagunga warriors, adding a mild element of puzzling challenge to the proceedings. Rankings are assigned per stage ranging from Bronze, Silver and Gold. Silver all the way through isn’t uncommon as, well, the game isn’t too challenging overall.
The art direction is decidedly cute and reminiscent of Loco Roco or Patapon, bright and colorful scenes matching well to the jungle beats. Two problems become readily apparent within a few minutes of firing up Jungle Rumble, though. The beat players are meant to drum along to? It never really changes. A rhythm game lives or dies based on the quality of its music. The bubbly cartoon aesthetic goes a long way to imbue the game with charm though listening to it is another story. The first levels feature the sparse drum beat that is, well, fine but as the levels roll on other generic sounds are introduced that break the entire soundtrack down into a hot mess. The better elements of the game that do work are overshadowed by this one big flaw: the music just isn’t good.
The other problem hinted at before? Poor controls. Tapping on the screen should be simple enough. The responsiveness necessary for a touch-based game like this, however, just isn’t present. Progression coming to a complete standstill thanks to taps not registering happen far too often and serve to drag out what is, already, an extremely short game. Two to three hours invested seems about right, perhaps a bit longer if one were to attempt to get Gold Medal ranks on each stage.
Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas attempts to combine rhythm and puzzle genres together in a rip-roarin’ monkey-filled adventure. The cartoon aesthetic is stylish, charming and works to a point, but the game really lacks in depth, good music and fails to make use of the Vita’s hardware. The novelty of playing the game vertically wears off as poor controls and sub-par sound design seek to diminish the experience. The game’s price tag is small ($4.99) and provides a few hours worth of drumming for Vita users. This could be a fantastic game for a younger player wanting a fun distraction for a few hours. Those looking for a more challenging or substantial rhythm game experience might want to look elsewhere.