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5/28/2009

The Arts

Tossing the drums

 

Tossing the drums
Nintendo New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

www.donkeykong.com

It’s been hard to know what to make of Nintendo’s New Play Control! experiment – you know, the series for which they’ve re-released old GameCube games with new Wii motion controls grafted onto them, sorta like a classic Rolls-Royce retrofitted with a huge spoiler and Hummer-size wheels.

The first offerings, frankly, were kind of a wash. Swinging a Wiimote racquet in Super Mario Tennis was fine, but I felt like Nintendo wished it could have rolled out the game with the launch of the Wii instead of the tennis minigame in Wii Sports. The new controls for Pikmin created an experience that felt more like playing an ancient PC game on a console with subpar graphics.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat represents try three, and it is remarkable in no small part because Nintendo grafts an oddball control system onto a game that already had one of the most bizarro control systems ever. For those of you whose short-term gaming memories crap out before 2005, this was the game you controlled with – wait for it – a set of bongo drums, beating on them to move DK left and right and clapping above them to make him attack. (Think of it like Dance Dance Revolution hands, Luau Version.) The New Play version tosses the drums in the closet and has you flicking and flipping the Wiimote and Nunchuk to make DK bust his clap-on, clap-off combos.

And whaddaya know, it actually works well. The game’s all about DK jumping, swinging and dodging through bite-size levels to collect bananas that build his health up for a throwdown with a boss the size of Caesars Palace.

It ought to feel cheap that the movement and jumping once controlled with mad bongo beats is now controlled like any other platformer, with button-pushes and thumbstick jerks. But the levels never let up on the need for DK’s clap attacks and aerial moves, which means the button-mashing becomes one in a symphony of frantic Wiimote moves.

Winning the boss bouts is like playing Wii Sports Boxing after guzzling a case of Red Bull. You thought beating on Miis was a workout for your arms? Try pummeling the king-sized Roc and Hog. Biceps of steel, here we come.

It’s unclear whether Big N intends to keep grave-robbing the GameCube library to help them lower development costs and eke through the down economy. If they can exhume the right titles –Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine, please? – it’s a strategy that might just work.

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