Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the first and only traditional Donkey Kong platformer to appear on the GameCube. Developed by Nintendo EAD Tokyo, this game uses the DK Bongos for enhanced gameplay to control characters on screen. Although this is not a requirement, as the game is playable with a regular controller, it is strongly recommended for the full experience. This was also the first game to receive the E10+ rating, a new level designated for games with mild graphic violence.
Gameplay involves combat, jumping, and counterattacking. While the traditional GameCube controllers are compatible, Jungle Beat uses a pair of bongo drums to control Donkey Kong's actions. Hitting the left drum causes Donkey Kong to move left, while hitting the right drum causes him to move right. Hitting both drums at the same time causes DK to jump. Clapping one's hands or hitting the sides of the drums also causes Donkey Kong to clap, which has various consequences depending on the situation. This is a unique game in the nature of play; it is a platformer where the goal is not simply to get to the end of the level. The goal is to get as many points, or "beats", as possible. Beats are obtained by grabbing bananas during gameplay, and lost by getting hurt or falling. The player can obtain additional beats by performing combos while grabbing the bananas. For example, three combo moves will earn four beats for each banana collected. Combos can go as high as thirty, meaning that thirty-one beats can be earned from a single banana. Time records can also be earned for stages and for racing sections of stages. Donkey Kong can perform moves such as backflips, the ground-pound, vine swinging, corner hopping, and wall jumping. He can also use other objects and animals in the game to add to the combo score. When performing "combo-moves", a counter is started, rising with each successive combo move acquired before landing. The combo counter is lost when Donkey Kong is hurt or falls, and all beats are lost. If DK's beat count reaches zero, he loses and will have to restart the level. In the Wii version of the game, hearts represent Donkey Kong's health instead of the beats, and there are extra lives and checkpoints throughout the level.
Clapping or making any other noise that the microphone in the Bongos picks up makes DK clap his hands. The hand clap produces two rings, a small red one and a giant green one. Enemies in the small red ring are usually defeated, and those in the larger green ring are usually stunned. Stunned enemies can then be jumped on and defeated by hitting the bongos repeatedly. Any bananas in the small red ring are grabbed in a chain, each incremented in value relative to the last (e.g., if three combo moves are done when DK clap-grabs five bananas, the bananas are worth 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).
The level system consists of several "kingdoms". Each kingdom contains three platforming levels. The first two sometimes contain racing and puzzle elements, which the final "boss" stage contains a fight against a large enemy. The beats obtained in the previous two levels are used as health for the fight against the boss, and the aim is to beat the boss without taking too many hits, lowering your beat count. There are many different types of bosses, each requiring different tactics to beat. For example, fights with other gorillas are fought in aPunch-Out!!-style bout, while battles against elephants require throwing back bombs that they fire. The gameplay relies on rhythm elements, such as clapping at the right time to get all of the bananas in an area, or incapacitate a boss.
Between each level, there is a short minigame where the player must tap the bongos as fast as they can to earn extra bananas. The exception to this are levels in which DK rides a wildebeest, in which case the minigame is to either fly the farthest from a jump, or stay on high ground long enough to collect many bananas without touching the ground.
At the end of the kingdom, the total sum of beats (after deducting any damage taken during the boss fight) is tallied up. Completing a kingdom earns a medal, while additional medals are earned by achieving certain amounts of beats. Medals are required to play new kingdoms, which is determined by the number shown. Clearing all the kingdoms in a section unlocks the next set of kingdoms. Players can revisit earlier levels to try and earn more beats, thus earning more medals.
- This was the first game developed by the Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development Tokyo branch.
- Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was the only Donkey Kong platform game on the Nintendo GameCube, the other Donkey Kong games, Donkey Konga, Donkey Konga 2, and Donkey Konga 3 were all music games featuring Donkey Kong, which also used the DK Bongos as instruments. DK Bongo Blast, originally a GameCube racing title, was cancelled and moved over as a Wii title.