i finished donkey konga a couple of weeks ago i think. this was a game that i have to admit i got in large part to try to get my bf to play video games with me. i wasn’t wholly successful in converting him, but, like the wii itself, the bongoes definitely make this an eye-catching game and a great way to get people intrigued. prob. good for parties as well, although i don’t have any firsthand experience, anti-social slob that i am.
as for the game itself, though, this was a game that is perhaps best left to the social, because unlocking everything turned out to just be tedious. it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the game gets so boring, because it starts off being quite fun. i think i would lay a lot of the blame on the arrangements, which seems odd b/c a lot of the time the arrangements are actually quite clever and enjoyable (the arrangements for the multi-player modes are particularly entertaining). and i had absolutely no problem w/ the fact that the songs aren’t performed by the original artists. the performances are so well done that i never even missed them.
the arrangements are generally fine on the lowest and medium levels of difficulty, but on the highest level of difficulty they get to be pretty annoying. the reason is pretty clear: other rhythm games (that i’ve encountered anyway) are set up so that every action is pretty much on the beat or clearly within the beat. in those games the difficulty comes from pressing the correct buttons at the right times. in donkey konga much of the game requires actions on the beat as well, but on the higher levels the arrangements feature more complicated rhythms that either follow the melody or go off into some sort of counterpoint. this wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but since the game only shows where the downbeat of each measure is, you only see one beat instead of 4 per measure. so it’s very difficult to get any sense of how the notes fit within the main beat. in fast songs with complicated rhythms (e.g. “para los rumberos” and “sing sing sing”), repeated tries don’t make the intended rhythms any clearer b/c everything is going by so fast. and it becomes pretty much impossible to just follow the notes on the screen. putting it another way, if the game required you to tap each note of the melody of a song you don’t know, you could do it, but it’d be much, much easier if you did know the song. there were times my bf and i were both just left saying, “if they wrote this out as music this would be a cinch”. this is obviously impractical, but the game would def. benefit at least from a practice mode that would let you build up complicated rhythms at faster and faster speeds, instead of just throwing them at you all at once at top speed. to some extent the three levels of difficulty for each song help with this, since the arrangements of the higher levels generally build on the arrangements of the lower levels, but that doesn’t solve the main problem when you’re presented with a complicated, non-intuitive pattern. i’m sure there could be a lot of other interesting features to a practice mode as well.
anyway, it seems a bit unfair to complain about the depth of what is intended to be a shallow game, but i can’t help feeling there was a lot of missed opportunity here. the three mini-games are pretty throwaway, and the other modes are pretty lame. the one where you have to memorize entire songs is pretty much completely worthless. i doubt 1 in 100 people have actually sat down and memorized one song, let alone more than a few. and the one where you have to do multiple songs in a row is also pointless. i should also add that even after i’d beaten the hardest tracks (with little sense of accomplishment), i found that i enjoyed the fun of the “easier” tracks much more. playing the kirby games has taught me that easier games can still be compelling, but donkey konga could’ve (and should’ve) made even their harder modes more fun.
looking over this donkey konga series song list on wikipedia makes me wish that the US version was more like the european version. the list for donkey konga 2 doesn’t really grab me (although the european version looks much better), but if i ever found a version of donkey konga 3 (only released in japan) and a japanese gamecube to play it on, i’d def. get it. it’s got loads of video game theme songs, which of course would be awesome. why do the US releases have the least number of video game theme songs? so sad.
last thing: instead of donkey konga 2, i’m actually (cautiously) looking forward to playing donkey kong jungle beat, a platformer that uses the bongoes. i’m still unconvinced that the bongoes would make a good controller in general, but matt casamassina’s glowing review for ign is convincing enough for me to pick it up. i don’t agree with everything he says in general, but i respect his opinion. stay tuned, gentle reader …
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