Games are fun, aren’t they? You could be fooled these days. Bloody things take themselves too seriously, if you ask me; we’re plagued with enormous yawn-inducing RPGs that demand a 60-hour investment of our time without a second thought, not to mention gloomy, atmospheric PC FPS’ which seem more inclined to scare or depress, rather than just let us have fun.
It’s good, then, to see fun returning to the forefront of videogame design in terms of new ideas. We’ve had the Eyetoy, the rising popularity of dance machines, and now, Donkey Konga. Screw looking cool, these games are all about having fun again, even if it does mean flapping around like an idiot in front of a wee camera or, in this case, flailing about hitting a pair of plastic drums and clapping your hands, like a great big monkey, in time to music.
Donkey Konga has been in the pipeline for quite some time following a Japanese release some months ago, and I think it’s fair to say that nobody’s really been expecting much of it. It was never going to be much more than a curiosity. What one comes to realise, however, is that it’s a pretty cool curiosity, especially if you manage to get similarly un-self-conscious mates around. There’s no need to take this game seriously; it sure as hell doesn’t take itself seriously, with its natty Eighties covers of popular songs and ludicrously unnecessary ‘storyline’ (though it does conjure up quite amusing images of sad-looking starved simians, forced to eternally play the magic bongos they found on the beach). After all: it’s all about the music, man.
There’s actually a surprisingly varied selection of songs available, including cheap rips of songs from everyone from Jamiroquai to Kylie to Queen (though no Bob Marley, depressingly), as well as a selection of re-jazzed Nintendo theme tunes. There are also three difficulty settings, the highest of which must be unlocked by the true Konga hardcore through earning coins from the lower difficulty settings. It’s all extremely simple, though surprisingly hard to finally get the hang of – left bongo, right bongo, both bongos (whoah!) and clap. Once the control has clicked and you get into the music, you’ll be banging away (so to speak) for quite some time.
It’s worth mentioning that by natty Eighties covers, I mean tacky Eighties covers. I don’t know why Nintendo didn’t just splash out and buy the songs, but what we’ve ended up with is a quite hilariously characteristic set of cheesy tunes to bop along to. Whether or not this is a good thing certainly depends on personal taste, but I would say it adds something to the game’s sheer ridiculousness.
The game is surprisingly addictive, too. You’ll be searching for a new challenge until your palms are raw from incessant clapping, and it’s possible to get very, very good indeed at this game – always beneficial, as it means you can put your hapless friends to shame in the excellent multiplayer. We’re graced with a variety of duet and battle modes and, amazingly, you actually sound good while playing them, even if neighbours and flatmates will complain about the incessant noise. It’s not only a competitive thing, it’s an exercise in musical bonding and it’s absolutely great. Unless, of course, you have a cheating gimp present who takes advantage of the game’s tragic inability to distinguish whether both left and right bongos are continually being pressed all the time in order to cover all eventualities.
It’s impossible not to be somewhat drawn in by Donkey Konga’s novelty and originality – at least, at first. Sadly, great fun though it is, it’s just as easy to put away and forget as it is to pick up and play for a quick laugh. Donkey Konga remains a novelty, and nothing more. It lacks depth, and is pretty much destined to remain something you bring out for a quick go at parties forever after; this, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t own it. Fans of rhythm action will probably like it more than others, as it does require the genre’s characteristic level of obsession if you want to get extremely good at it. In the end, though, there really isn’t much to it save the novelty, the fun-for-a-while multiplayer modes and, of course, the sheer fun of acting like a big monkey. This is a short review for sure, and the game merits it. Donkey Konga is a typically Nintendo piece of pointless but interesting innovation; it isn’t going anywhere, but it’s nonetheless brilliant fun.