Many could argue that the PlayStation Vita's touch display is either rarely or poorly used in games, and few Vita owners would contest such a statement. Games like Tearaway and RaymanLegends stand out as games that really take advantage of what the screen can do. I always look for games that make use of features that are on a specific platform, and the Vita is no exception. I had high hopes for Jungle Rumble to swing onto the the console in stunning fashion, but was left hanging on the vine.
From the onset it becomes apparent that Jungle Rumble was made for smartphones, which is not a bad thing in this case. The Vita is held vertically in your hands for a presentation style that really helps the game’s concept of shepherding monkeys through levels in an upward fashion. I felt like I was helping the monkeys go higher and higher into the sky until they reached the bananas that need to be collected. The only downfall with holding the Vita in this fashion is that my hand frequently went numb. A small problem, but one that is consistent throughout the game.
The main point of the game is to get monkeys to the bananas kept at the end of the level. The main challenge is keeping the beat to move the monkeys along. This is done by tapping the screen in time with the music and move monkeys from one platform to another. A double tap skips platforms and triple taps throw projectiles, moves that adds a noticeable layer of difficulty. Even with yellow dots on the screen to help keep the beat, the game borderlines on irritation when you get close to the end only to lose your rhythm. Then there were times I tried to move groups of monkeys and some would remain on the platform making my job harder. There were a few latency issues after returning to the game from other applications, which makes it impossible to play. There is a difference between knowing you did something wrong and feeling like the game purposely hindered your goal.
Jungle Rumble's difficulty, however, lies with the lack of interesting music. Having played Elite Beat Agents and other rhythm games with far better music, the quality of the soundtrack was weak in comparison. As you progress through the three stages, the music gets to be overly similar. This is not to say that it doesn't give off different vibes but the tracks are just rearrangements of tones that are as generic as built-in ringtones. When I had to replay a level several times, the music became so annoying that I literally had to turn the game off. I even looked around while playing in public places to see if I was annoying people nearby. It is hard to play a rhythm game when the music is so unappealing. I mostly kept my own beat in my head or by humming, which probably is the reason for the difficulties I had getting through most levels.
Besides keeping the beat, there are time limits and antagonistic red monkeys. Medals are rewarded based on getting all the monkeys to safety, knocking away enemies, and reaching the bananas within the time limit. The best moments in the game are when you string together combos which surrounds your monkeys with a cloud of “mojo.” I really wish the developers took advantage of the combos by having a score system of some sort. Leaderboards would be a great addition to the game besides the regular time and enemy awards. The game’s difficulty in keeping the beat also means that combos are frequently broke, which really bums you out while playing.
The story is very deep for a rhythm based game. You are helping monkeys collect bananas because their tribe was attacked by red monkeys who wanted their bananas. As you progress through the game, the real culprits behind the banana theft are discovered. I won't spoil the reveal, but the game really teaches you about a greater problem facing the animals. The length and quality of the story and cutscenes might have hindered the potentially great gameplay. As I mentioned before, there are three different stages. The first two stages feel very fleshed out with about eight different levels, but the last one is very short. Not only are the abruptly cut short, but they were some of the best levels in the game.
Jungle Rumble gives one of the best efforts a game can possibly give. It has a unique design and style. The colors are vibrant and the story is very touching and thoughtful. However, when it comes down to the actual gameplay the game is frustration. Not because the game is inherently difficult, but because the music is unappealing and actually detracts from the overall experience. Add in some technical hiccups and places where the developers could have flushed out like the leaderboards, and the game had me wanting. I really have mixed feelings about the game because it was not terrible, but did not try to become more than the sum of its parts. If the developers do take another swing at this game or genre, I think it would be well worth giving them a second chance. As it stands, Jungle Rumble slips on a few too many bananas to be perfect.