Rhythm games in general are uniquely polarizing; they fit a niche demographic that essentially fall into one of four groups, each represented by the heavy hitters in the genre. You have your Guitar Hero group that’s hell bent on perfection and speed, your DDR-gonauts who are always searching for arcade machines and competitions to stomp on giant buttons for cash, your drunken, party-going Rock Band members who just want to mess around with their friends, and then you have the Rhythm Heaven hooligans who like their games quirky, crazy, and simple.
It’s interesting to see that the latter style has been the only to truly survive the rhythm purge of 2010. While there has since been plenty of touchscreen rip offs of the Guitar Hero variety, it seems most indie developers prefer to take a cartoony and inventive approach to modern rhythm titles. Disco Pixel’s latest title, Jungle Rumble, follows that trend to see what else can be done with this musical sub-genre.
Jungle Rumble takes rhythm-based tap mechanics and mixes it up with puzzle progression. The core control scheme requires you to tap on beat with the drums to decided how you’ll move to each section of the board. As you navigate the army of monkeys to their bunch of stolen bananas, you’ll encounter an opposing band of monkeys that will knock out yours upon landing on them. The enemy monkeys tend to jump on the off beat, making the rhythm your primary focus opposed to attempting to quickly skip past them.
Jungle Rumble (iOS)
Developer: Disco Pixel Studios
Publisher: Disco Pixel Studios
Release: May 1, 2014
However, you aren’t completely defenseless. There are spaces containing coconuts that act as your active projectiles. The amount of monkeys you have in your party dictates how many coconuts you can have equipped at once. Should you be cornered by an army outnumbering your own, you’ll be forced to retreat or find your band of monkeys taken out. The biggest challenge is trying to juggle all of these concepts at once, while still keeping in time with the beat.
While Jungle Rumble is heavily based on the beat, it doesn’t go beyond percussion. At times, the same beat progression can feel droning and although later levels add instruments and slight variations, it seems like a missed opportunity to put some really interesting original music in the game. Once you have the rhythm down, it can make levels feel similar just because it’s just more of the same. One may find it to be a chore pushing themselves further until they find a newly introduced mechanic just to switch things up.
But that’s not to say plenty isn’t introduced as the game progresses. More aggressive monkeys will chase and knock out whole groups at once while smaller ones may start to leap in patterns, forcing the player to slip by at opportune times. Moving mechanics like waiting through a beat or faster rhythmic tapping to move double spacing results in thinking about how far along you want to be at any given time. The whole act of holding an army together is challenging and entertaining, as you have to keep the beat in order to hold every monkey together. Once these mechanics all start coming together at once, it makes for a tricky and addictive experience.
Sadly, this barrel of monkeys I stumbled upon resulted in a lot of crashing. Usually, the game would become slow and crash when entering another level. Since each stage consists of multiple levels, I had to start over at the first level every time this happened. Sometimes by five levels. I contacted Disco Pixel about the issue, but they seemed confused about how such a thing would happen. I decided to give it another chance and play it on a friends iPad and, sure enough, I never encountered any problems at all. Although it seems like my problems were part of an isolated incident, it doesn’t dismiss the potential or the concept of tiered stages for a mobile game. If you’re on a bus or on your work break or going to the bathroom, you shouldn’t be penalized for stopping the game with the intention of coming back to it later. The lack of such an option hurts the overall progressive design.
My isolated crashing problems serve only as an advisement, not a strike against the game as a whole. Jungle Rumble surely has a place on the market. Despite missing the opportunity to include some catchier music and the sectioned level design hurting its pick-up-and-play mobility, its shortcomings aren’t enough to truly denounce its charm. The gameplay is fun and challenging with addictive tendencies, the structure implements new mechanics consistently, and the concept bodes well to invite new rhythm-based games to the platform. The overall simplistic art design works to support its nature showing off both colorful visual and basic, but memorable characters, such as my personal favorite, the monkey sage with a Cockney accent. Jungle Rumble is definitely worth the purchase if you’re a rhythm game fan looking to get your mobile fix. Grab some headphones and take it with you, just be sure to finish your level before you put it down.