The Donkey Kong franchise has run the full gamut of game types since its debut so long ago. One of the more interesting and unique games to come out of the franchise was 2004’s GBA release, DK King of Swing. Featuring almost exclusive use of the shoulder buttons for controlling DK, King of Swing showed that an old dog like the GBA still had a few new tricks left up its sleeve. King of Swing was the first DK title by developer Paon after Rare’s departure to Microsoft and they’ve followed it up with a sequel titled DK Jungle Climber on the DS.
Jungle Climber has a pretty shallow story that begins with DK and company on a vacation and progresses with the appearance of a massive floating banana atop a nearby mountain. DK and his friends head on over to check things out and their adventure begins. From that point, things get very fuzzy as the story dissolves into an almost random series of events that seem to do little more than give you a poor reason for playing through each level.
Jungle Climber sports 4 unique gameplay modes including a single player story mode, a challenge mode featuring a collection of mini-games, a multiplayer versus mode, and an extras mode that contains Cranky’s lectures, the story videos, and even a collection of cheats you can enable. The Adventure mode is broken up into different islands each with many stages. To progress to each subsequent island you will need to complete all the stages and defeat the boss at the end of the final stage. Most stages can be completed on the first playthrough and require nary more than a few minutes to complete.
The mechanics of the game are quite simple. Use the L and R shoulder buttons to move side to side. Basic movement can also be accomplished through the D-Pad. To jump, press both shoulder buttons simultaneously. When one of DK’s hands is over a peg, press the corresponding shoulder button to grab that peg. Pressing both shoulder buttons will result in DK grabbing 2 pegs if they line up with DK’s hands. Grabbing a single peg will result in DK spinning around the peg, clockwise from his right hand and counterclockwise from his left. You can also jump from a peg by releasing the button.
Early in the game you will be introduced to additional features like invincibility and the appearance of Diddy Kong. While invincible you can fly through the air, guiding your way with the shoulder buttons. Diddy Kong is used to execute a spin attack or to collect far off items that DK can’t reach. The game does feature a moderate learning curve, but the game introduces you to each new action available to you and should be simple enough for gamers of all ages to pick up rather quickly.
Adventure stages include the standard DK items such as barrels, bananas, DK Coins, and many more. These items, while sometimes essential to completing the level, are more or less there to give you a reason to go back and replay any stages that you don’t complete on your first pass.
As you complete stages in the Adventure mode of Jungle Climber, you’ll unlock new mini-games in the Challenge mode. There are 6 total mini-games available to play and they range from Banana Grab, which challenges you to grab as many bananas as you can, to Rolling Panic where you are jumping over logs rolling down the hill. Each mini-game has different difficulty levels that are unlocked as you beat the current level. Each new difficulty level has an increasingly difficult goal to unlock your next level. Some of the mini-games are entertaining, but the upper level difficulties require an almost flawless performance and can become frustrating very quickly.
The multi-player mode in Jungle Climber allows you to play with up to 3 of your friends with a single game card. This is definitely a nice touch, but the total lack of multi-player game types makes this mode lackluster at best. The variety of modes is limited to Speed Climb and Booster Battle, both games which feature a short race and are ultimately not enough to keep you coming back.
Graphics are 2D and pretty average, as is the accompanying soundtrack. The DS’ second screen merely expands your view of the current stage. Touch controls are used sparingly, but are used when activating invincibility.
DK Jungle Climber represents a relatively unique gaming concept that Paon seems intent on refining. With their second attempt, they’ve put out a relatively solid game that has a broad appeal with its subject matter and its execution. Jungle Climber does a great job of presenting a fun gameplay experience, but doesn’t present any real reason to replay any of the levels after their initial completion. This lack of replay value really pushes Jungle Climber down a notch as you can no doubt zip through this title in a week or maybe even a weekend. Jungle Climber is a good game, but ultimately suffers from being too short with not enough substance to justify a full price purchase.