Review: Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas
Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is a rhythm based puzzle game involving tribes of monkeys fighting over the jungle trees. You play as the “Great Spirit” controlling the Mofongo tribe through the jungle canopy. The Mofongo Sage informs that objective is to collect the bananas, stop the bad red monkeys, and preferably do it all within time limit. Moving the Mofongo tribe and throwing collected coconuts requires specific timing of sequential finger taps in a specified pattern determined by the first beat of a 4:4 drum beat. If you think that sounds at all like Patapon, that is where the comparisons end abruptly.
Unnecessarily, Jungle Rumble requires the entire game be played with the Vita system held vertically. And with touch screen-only controls, it makes it difficult to see portions of the screen with one’s finger obstructing the view. There are no settings in the game allowing the player to change the screen orientation or the control input. In fact, the Settings menu only really offers an option for Language to be changed, to reset the game, or to view the credits. And for some reason, a banner that says “Not Logged In” doesn’t want to tell me how to log in.
What does work well is the borrowed movement system from one of the best rhythm-strategy games from the PSP, Patapon. Developer Disco Pixel has incorporated a touch screen input mechanic of moving from one tree branch to a neighboring branch. It looks like 1, 2, 1, 2, with “1” being a finger tap on the occupied branch and “2” being a tap on a nearby branch indicated by a hot pink outline. Once the monkey or monkeys have been moved to a branch with a pile of coconuts, throwing said coconuts at the nefarious looking red monkeys is as simply as 1, 1, 1, 2 once they are within range.
Unfortunately, this just does’t pair well with the tinny, repetitive samba drum beat that plays relentlessly the moment after booting up the game. The first thought in reviewing a music rhythm based game is “do I like the music?” The answer is simply “no.” I wouldn’t buy this soundtrack, search Google for the tracks, or set this as my ringtone… and neither will you. And remember, being a rhythm-centric puzzle game requires that the game be played with either the volume cranked all the way or with headphones of any quality, because with Jungle Rumble, quality doesn’t matter.
While getting to the bunch of bananas is usually the primary objective, some levels are designed to be completed by way of a complex network of moves learned only with trial and error. The Vita version of Jungle Rumble has been beefed up with bonus side missions that sort of explain the philosophy behind the creation of several levels by teaching the player the importance of positioning. One such level teaches a trick called “threading the needle” whereby the Mofongo tribe weaves their way through multiple enemies passively carrying out their designated pattern in order to get to the coconut stash and take them out like targets on a merry-go-round.
Since the core design in Jungle Rumble is to basically drum through each level, doing so while meeting three common criteria; speed, defeating all the enemies, and with all your Mofongo tribe members intact; will earn the illustrious gold medal. Once gold is achieved, however, there’s no urge whatsoever to return to complete it again. In fact, the game doesn’t actually get interesting until half way through when it finally teaches the “hot step.” A new timed input to traverse two branches instead of one, a trick I would’ve liked to use much sooner.
Jungle Rumble’s artist Luigi Guatieri chose to use vector based graphics with real sharp lines and contrasting colors. The art of Jungle Rumble is indeed one of the most appealing facets of the game. And it only gets better when arriving in the final world after fully unraveling what has caused the Kagunga tribe to want to take all of the Mofongo’s bananas.
Alas, what you see is what you get. For this reason, Jungle Rumble is incapable of grabbing the attention of anyone looking for more than an iPhone/iPad game on Vita. There is proof of this within the game at the beginning, when the tutorial first demonstrates timing. It shows a slanted view of what looks nothing like a Vita and more like a smartphone device. Whoops!
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Clean art style
- Responsive touch input
- Writing can be a little humorous at times
What I Dislike:
- Extremely dry, repetitive drum beat never takes a break
- Pacing feels forced, one way to finish level or die trying
- Vita must be held vertically to play, no option to rotate
- Playing the role of a god never felt so limited
- What little puzzle elements are there feel watered down