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Donkey Konga (GameCube) Review

Review for Donkey Konga on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Donkey Kong was originally a large monkey that used to kidnap women to terrorise their close ones, and throw barrels down ramps for fun...Then, somewhere along the line, he suddenly morphed into an ape that enjoyed platform hi-jinx along the lines of former nemesis Mario. But once UK team Rare left the Nintendo-fold, nobody really knew where the hairy beast could possibly go. Well Nintendo teaming up with Namco to produce a bongo-led rhythm game certainly never entered anyone's minds! Find out if this experiment is 'top banana' or slips on a banana skin, falling flat on its face...

You may well sit there with an incredulous look upon your face, but by now it should be obvious that even the most obscure Nintendo title tends to have some sort of background tale, no matter how ridiculous it is. And ridiculous this indeed is...Donkey and Diddy Kong are strolling along a remote beach location when suddenly they spot two barrel-like objects hidden away nearby. Upon closer inspection they discover that tapping each one makes a tune and clapping results in them emitting a strange glow. Their primate brains 'quickly' kick into gear and they consider how many bananas they can buy by playing these bongos. However, Cranky, ever the wise ape, insists they practice hard first, which is where you step in...

Screenshot for Donkey Konga on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Normally the graphics section is one of the first parts of a review written. However, when it came to Donkey Konga I honestly had to leave it until last as during play you seriously do not notice anything really other than the various notes flying past your blood-shot, weary eyes! After a good rest and a much-needed eye-soak, looking critically at the visuals severely disappoints. It is clear that during development some clever, short-cutting artist joked 'With all the fast action, do we really need flash graphics?!' and someone else actually went ahead and agreed. And so, other than the odd bit of full 3D for the story and tutorial action as well as the Donkey and Diddy Kong models during play, everything is quite basic and even somewhat reminiscent of the DKC / DK64 days. I would say maybe volume two will likely have further improvements but Vol.2: Hit Parade is already out in Japan and looks just as plain and primitive as this outing. Ah well, I suppose it is not a necessity overall...

The European line-up of tunes is very pleasing, despite initial reservations after seeing the list on paper. There is a nice mix of pop, rock, classics and 'others', with only a couple of completely dire songs in total (the 'inimitable' Donkey Konga tune, which manages to make the DK Rap extremely bearable!). Bongoing to Supergrass' rock-laden Richard III, Earth, Wind & Fire's retro dance-fest September, or even that classic pub-theme Tub-thumping is surprisingly addictive and amazingly they all sound great when you get the notes / claps exactly on time. However, make sure you keep the setting on 'Bongo' as the NES sounds effects option is abysmal and completely ruins the atmosphere and experience as a whole. Also, there are a few tunes that do not really seem to work well, like Lady Marmalade and Busy Child. But hey, for a first attempt that aims to please all, and with the fact that outside singers have been hired to cut down on royalty fees for the vocal work, Konga is definitely a brilliant foundation from which to build on!

Screenshot for Donkey Konga on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Have you ever played a rhythm game before? No? Well, surely you at least know of games like Parappa the Rappa, the Paper Mario-esque 'street' animal from the PSone, its pseudo-sequel Um Jamma Lammy, as well as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution and Bemani titles that have been all the rage across the world over the past five or so years? If not, never fear as all you really need to know is that they are the epitome of simplicity and perfect examples of how to make a game that grabs your attention, yet is not overly demanding and inaccessible.

When purchasing your lovely copy of Donkey Konga, you may notice that the package is on the 'larger-than-normal' side! This is, surprisingly enough, because the 'Konga' in the title implies this is a rhythm simulation and a set of bongos are included in the place of the standard GameCube controller. Now, whilst it is all very well to play with the GameCube pad should you so desire, half of the pleasure stems from bashing away and clapping like a clown to the songs blaring out of the sound system hooked up to your GameCube, as if you are rocking away in a real band.

The basic aim of the game is to watch as notes move across the screen, from right-to-left, and stop them as they pass through the stationary target on the left-side of the playing area. In order to do this, though, you must make the appropriate move according to the specific type of note required: yellows mean hit the left bongo (or move the 3D stick on the pad), reds mean right bongo ('A' or 'B'), pink / purple is bang both on either the bongos or GC controller and the jagged blue symbol signifies the need to clap, tap the bongo sides or (for those less bongo-inclined) slam one of the shoulder buttons. Following the on-screen combinations, getting your timing precisely right and maintaining your nerves as more and more notes come flying your way will lead to you becoming the King of the Bongos...

Screenshot for Donkey Konga on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

But you do not merely have to play through each of the songs on your own as there is a great source of entertainment to be had with your friends and family, or even just competing against computer opponents to see who can bongo the best. Starting off on the lowest levels will give you only a few notes across the entire song, but crank it up and you are nearly playing the whole song yourself. The game's ability to draw you in and make you play again and again, just one more time, is why Donkey Konga is a massive hit. Get your friends in on the action and the simple gameplay turns into a title that battles Mario Kart in multiplayer! Strong words...

With over thirty tracks available to you in Donkey Konga, plus the few mini games that can be unlocked by collecting coins throughout the musical play, the continuously increasing difficulty levels and the sheer ecstasy of the multiplayer romping fun, the whole game can easily last for weeks without hardly becoming repetitive. Then there is the fact that with its pick-up-and-play theme, many gamers will definitely be able to find at least a few minutes here and there to try and perfect their bongo skills on their favourite tracks, or take time out to 'jam' with a friend or three. The beauty of Donkey Konga lies in its simplicity, something that Nintendo appears to have in spades at the moment and is placing in many of its games lately. The only shame is that there is a lack of extra unlockable features and songs. More secrets would have been very beneficial...

Screenshot for Donkey Konga on GameCube- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Left, right, both together, clap! Then repeat until either your eyes start to hurt or your hands ache. But despite the pain you will enjoy many hours alone and with your friends.


Donkey Konga really is not going to win any awards for graphical prowess, but then again who really needs flash visuals when you busy concentrating?


The range of tracks is perfect as it encapsulates such a wide variety that a large audience can accept. Also, the songs are impressively recreated by hired talent


A large amount of songs and the variety of difficulty levels bring you back for more, but extra titles and hidden features would have been nice.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Many were sceptical of Donkey Konga when first announced, myself included. But, and this is a big but (no, not 'butt'!). I could not have been more wrong as the Nintendo-Namco partnership has produced a game that has not only managed to get my friends and I raving about its massively addictive and hilarious nature, but has converted my wife who now constantly asks if she can bang my bongos (and then play Donkey Konga, hehe). For that alone it deserves a high final score! Do not make the mistake I nearly made; give this a whirl, especially considering the amazing bongo set is included free in the total price...

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C3 Score

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Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (21 Votes)

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