Jungle Rumble is a rhythm-action game in which players control monkeys belonging to the Mofongo tribe, and lead them against the rival Kagunga tribe that’s causing a ruckus by stealing bananas. In order to put our red foes in their place and investigate the issue, we must tap along to the beat of the jungle, drumming on monkeys and trees while ensuring that our supply of bananas remains intact. We have beats, clever maneuvers like “hot steps,” and coconuts at our disposal to keep them away.
Jungle Rumble was originally released for mobile devices last year. When it announced a PlayStation Vita version back in September, developer Disco Pixel promised more levels and badder beats among other enhancements for the handheld. I haven’t played the game before, but if this Vita port actually includes all these additions, then I can’t help but wonder if the original game contains any noteworthy content to begin with.
Where’s the Rhythm in That?
Jungle Rumble is presented in vertical orientation throughout, which makes sense because we’re required to move our monkeys around on a tree, and doing so horizontally may have posed visual problems. The game is divided into three main chapters, and each chapter has various levels to get through. A tutorial at the beginning shows us the ropes, and within no time, we’re good to go. Usually, this is a good thing. But in Jungle Rumble’s case, this is just the first step towards the disappointment that you’ll feel later on.
If you’re a fan of the rhythm genre and are buying this game for that reason alone, you’ll want to note that this isn’t exactly a rhythm game in the traditional sense. It doesn’t challenge your sense of rhythm, and you’re basically repeating the same moves in the same sequence throughout the game. There are some minor variations in gameplay, such as the introduction of new moves along the way, but nothing significant. You can still get through the game without those maneuvers. The music doesn’t contribute much either. Once I cleared a few levels, I knew exactly when to tap and where. At one point, I even muted my Vita to see how far I could go and, lo and behold, I ended up clearing an entire level without music.
The good news is that the puzzle elements do work well. Some levels will require you to time your moves and think logically before proceeding. This is of particular importance in chapter two because quite a few puzzles will have an entire army of enemies keeping us away from our bananas. Some of our red foes are like mini bosses. They are bigger than the regular enemies, and are pretty slick. Any contact with them, even if you’re standing in a group, means you’re dead. My strategy was to avoid them as much as possible, knock out the smaller guys with coconuts, and grab the bananas as quickly as possible.
Here, Have a Medal
There is a little bit of a reward system in Jungle Rumble for those who like a challenge. Players can earn gold, silver, or bronze medals at the end of each puzzle depending on how they complete it. In order to achieve a gold medal, we have to execute our moves perfectly, destroying all the enemies along the way within a set time. I didn’t care much for the medals since they don’t affect the game whatsoever. But without even trying, I cleared most of the puzzles with some shiny silver. That leads me to believe that there’s very little challenge for those who seek it in order to obtain a gold medal. Generally speaking, Jungle Rumble is not a difficult game. There were some random difficulty spikes during the second chapter, but for the most part, it’s a very easy game that doesn’t last long. It took me a few hours to beat it, and the only frustration I felt was from unresponsive controls rather than the game’s difficulty.
Jungle Rumble Review - Monkey Business (PS Vita)
Thou Shalt Not Move
On quite a few occasions, I found my monkey stuck to a tree branch, refusing to move regardless of how perfectly I drummed along. Having to start a puzzle all over again due to death resulting from unresponsive controls wasn’t fun at all. Then, there were occasions where the enemy refused to move beyond a certain point. I am not quite sure if the enemy movement and placement is deliberately random in Jungle Rumble, but it was quite annoying when they got stuck in a random corner as it would obstruct my moves unnecessarily.
Jungle Rumble also features auto-scrolling levels in which players have to move up as quickly as they can to avoid dying, while simultaneously avoiding and/or killing enemies, and figuring their way up. And such puzzles are exactly where unresponsive controls can be a pain in the neck. You could be right near the end, and your enemies would have no problem catching up with you if you’re stuck fiddling with the screen. I did like the simple yet colorful presentation and art style in Jungle Rumble, and I quite enjoyed the music, too. But for what the developer considers a rhythm game, the absolute lack of variety in music and gameplay is quite surprising.
Jungle Rumble is a classic example of a game that’s best left to a smartphone. If I was reviewing it for a phone, I would have adopted a different tone in my review. But the truth is that it struggles greatly to make its mark on the Vita. The game is also monotonous and, although it only costs $4.99, it doesn’t last longer than a train journey to and from work.
A review code for Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas was provided by Sony. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.