When Nintendo announced that its new Donkey Kong game would be a rhythm-based game using kongas, you could hear the moans and groans from the faithful. When will we ever learn that Nintendo is almost always right?
When you purchase Donkey Konga, you’ll be greeted by a huge box that might as well house a console. A Konga controller is included, which is why the game box is so large. The kongas themselves are pretty solidly built, albeit they’re all plastic. The kongas have a single button, and a built-in microphone in between the drums. This is used to register to clap.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward, and you’ll be banging and clapping in no time. Playing the game consists of hitting the drums or clapping when the specific note indicator passes through the target ring on the left-hand side of the musical bar. A yellow indicator means hitting the left drum, a red indicator means hitting the right drum, a pink indicator means hitting both drums simultaneously, and a white burst indicator means to clap. When the notes are stretched out, it means that you continue the specific action as long as the note stretches through the target ring, in other words, you’ll be performing a roll. That’s it, that’s all there is to the Donkey Konga gameplay. The trick, then, is to time your strikes, rolls and claps properly to rack up enough coins and clear the songs. You’ll want to clear as many songs as possible to buy mini-games, instruments, etc. Some of the mini-games are incredibly fun, and the gorilla-level songs you buy are also worth the effort. Overall, there is enough content in this game to keep you occupied for about 10-20 hours, more if you have friends and some extra kongas.
The graphics in Donkey Konga are a huge letdown. I wasn’t expecting a graphical masterpiece, but the sprites and animation used in the backgrounds are simply lame. It’s a good thing you won’t have time to notice them too much while you’re clapping and drumming. There are different locales and characters depending on the mode you choose to play, but none stand out, and most look like they were ripped directly from the SNES Donkey Kong game. Like I mentioned earlier, though, it’s not something you’ll notice unless you’re watching someone else play. The graphics are cheerful, but not nearly festive enough. The characters basically have two frames of animation, left and right. It’s pretty pathetic for a GCN game. The graphics don’t get much better for the mini-games, though they are better than the song locales.
This game is a multiplayer masterpiece. Having four friends over with four kongas is an instant party. While the single-player experience is fun, it’s mostly to tune your skills for when your friends come over. The game really shines when you hook up the other kongas and play through the different multiplayer modes, from cooperative to battle, from synchronized matches to plain out freestyle drumming. With the ability to purchase different instruments from the DK store, you can have your own band performing in your living room. The big drawback to the multiplayer experience is the $35 price tag on the konga controllers. It’s easier when your friends buy their own copies of Donkey Konga.
Donkey Konga has an interesting variety of songs, and while you’d always want more song selections in games like these, the songs that are there tend to lend themselves to playing kongas. From “We Will Rock You”, to “BINGO”, to Nintendo themes like Mario and Zelda, there’s definitely enough variety in the song selection.
Donkey Konga is an excellent title to introduce the kongas with, and with the addition of the Donkey Kong adventure game due next year, it should come in handy. Hopefully, Nintendo can introduce at least two additional games that utilize the kongas (one which should obviously be a sequel). Otherwise, it’s difficult to rationalize the price tag on the extra kongas. As a single player game, Donkey Konga is entertaining enough, but anyone interested in it should have some sort of plan to play the game with friends.