Although they have seen relative popularity in Japan, rhythm games were all but unknown to Americans when "Dance Dance Revolution" was released in 1998. Since then, it seems that every arcade in the United States has installed some sort of foot-stomping, guitar-playing or maraca-shaking system.
"Donkey Konga" is the latest rhythm game addition, and its lets you bring the genre home for the Nintendo GameCube. While "Donkey Konga" offers some entertaining and challenging hours of gameplay, its lack of depth makes it somewhat forgettable.
Playing 'Donkey Konga" is pretty straightforward using the set of bongos that are included with the game. Additional sets will run you $20. Color-coded circles move across the screen, and players hit the bongos and clap to the beat of the song. The bongos are responsive and easy to use, so most players should have no problem jumping right into the songs.
There are three difficulty settings - Monkey, Chimp and Gorilla - for the 33 songs included in the game. Beginning players should have no problem passing songs in Monkey mode, but "Donkey Konga" ramps up the challenge for the Gorilla level. It will take most players (especially those with no rhythm-game experience) more than a few hours to conquer all of the songs on the Gorilla difficulty.
"Donkey Konga" offers a variety of game modes, but most players will likely spend their time jamming with the songs. In single-player mode, you earn coins based on how well you stay on beat and how many notes you can hit correctly in a row. These coins can then be used to purchase new songs and unlock mini-games and custom sounds.
Up to four players can play together in a Jam Session, and two players can duke it out for the top score in the Battle mode. Unfortunately, the mini-games are mediocre at best and don't seem to fit with the overall feel of the game.
The custom sounds are probably the most useless segment of all, as most of the sound sets are absolutely nonsensical (dogs barking and car horns never seem to fit with "Oye Como Va") and they just make the songs more difficult to hear. Still, the unlockables give you something else to do in the game and you'll need something to burn all of those coins on.
While the songs provide a good amount of playtime, the tracks designed for the younger audience seem too simple as your skill improves. Instead, you'll wind up playing a handful of songs that present some challenge and others like "Campfire Medley" (complete with "Bingo" and "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain") will go unplayed.
The songlist features some contemporary tunes such as Blink 182's "All the Small Things" and "The Impression That I Get" by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The songs are not performed by the original artists, but rather by cover bands. Fortunately, the covers are pretty faithful to the original versions, and you're too busy watching the notes fly by to pay attention anyway.
"Donkey Konga" gives some solid entertainment for as long as it'll keep your attention. The game tries too hard to appeal to a mass audience, and in the process it dampens the difficulty for the majority of gamers. The un-lockable content seems like a last-ditch effort to make the game longer, and including some seriously difficult songs would have done the trick with better results.
Still, if you're looking for some casual fun and you're a few beers deep, "Donkey Konga" delivers well.