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DS  header logo

Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber

For: DS

On the vine to nowhere

Product: Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber | Developer: Paon Corporation | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: Platform | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber DS, thumbnail 1
The banana is a beautiful fruit. Not only is it visually attractive, but it's also a fantastic source of potassium and vitamin B6. Still, it doesn't take much – whether over-ripeness or being bulked up by use of too many fertilisers – to reduce its taste and texture to a rather mushy consistency.

It's a fitting metaphor for the experience you'll have in DK: Jungle Climber. It looks great and makes a nice change from the apples and oranges of Mario platformers, but this isn't Nintendo at its best.

Frankly, the colourful presentation hides bland gameplay.

The scene is set as Donkey Kong and his primate posse venture to Sun Sun Island on holiday. Following a seashore swim, Donkey Kong hungrily decides to journey after a giant banana resting at the island's peak. But instead of a yummy snack, he ends up confronting a banana-shaped alien called Xananab (no, we're not making this up). This walking, talking, yellow fella explains that crocodile villain King R Krool has stolen his crystal banana. So naturally, it's up to you to lead Donkey Kong on a quest to reclaim the prize.

Of course, with platform games such as DK: Jungle Climber, story doesn't matter too much. It's hard not to notice how glaringly absurd it is here, though. Someone at Nintendo has gone completely bananas (sorry) allowing this sham through.

Where the game does demonstrate innovation, however, is in its control method, which is based on the one introduced in Game Boy Advance title, Donkey Kong: King of Swing. For the most part, DK: Jungle Climber can be played just using the DS's Left and Right shoulder buttons. Tapping both simultaneously triggers a jump, whereas pressing L and R in turn enables you to grab onto objects with Donkey Kong's respective hands. In such a L, R, L, R, etc manner, you can swing around levels, gripping onto the peg blocks which are scattered throughout.

More variation is created when you hold down either the L or R button, which gets Donkey Kong to spin (anti-clockwise for L and clockwise for R). When you release the button, the big ape is launched in that direction. The A button, meanwhile, is used for attacking enemies.

Initially, this scheme works well because the levels are straightforward to navigate. But once you reach the later stages, the exclusive use of the shoulder buttons proves ill-suited for advanced platform challenges. The slow, deliberate style of play that comes with swinging Donkey Kong via L and R doesn't work so well with highly time-sensitive jumping sequences or against fast-moving foes. As a result you'll frequently find yourself falling from heights and succumbing to enemy blows, wishing you had more direct control over DK's actions.

Even the occasional introduction of Diddy Kong as a buddy who sits on your back, enabling long-range double tap attacks and power-ups such as wings or a flamethrower, doesn't help matters much.

That said, many of the most difficult sections can simply be bypassed as DK: Jungle Climber separates optional challenges from the main path. Hence it's entirely possible to zip through levels without going after cheat-granting DK coins, the fuel barrels which will transport you to the bonus levels, or life-giving bananas. The game is much easier that way, although obviously you won't be able to unlock much additional content.

Complementing the main adventure, DK: Jungle Climber includes single-player mini-games in Challenge mode and two competitive multiplayer affairs. The six Challenge mini-games, which see you performing tasks such as dodging logs and collecting bananas against the clock, are all but pointless.

On a more positive note, the multiplayer matches for up to four players are better. You have a choice between Speed Climb, a vertical climbing race, and Booster Battle, a top-down sprinting competition. The best part is you only need one game cart to play.

Peel away these sporadic moments of fun, though, and you're left with a generally bland game. DK: Jungle Climber has the trappings of an entertaining platform romp and entertains for a short time, but quickly loses its appeal, while the inventive control scheme just isn't enough to overcome what turns out to be an overall unsatisfactory experience.

Still, if you have the dedication, there's more than enough content and collectibles to keep you busy, although we suspect most players will probably become bored well before reaching the game's bizarre conclusion.
Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 18 September 2007
Rather than deliver a tantalising treat, peeling away the skin of DK: Jungle Climber reveals bland play mechanics that can't be saved by the game's creative control system
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