Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas – PS Vita Review

Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas was developed by Disco Pixel. The game was released on February 10 and costs $4.99 on the PlayStation Network. A code was given to us for review purposes.

Let me ask you a question, if a rival tribe of monkeys invade and try to steal your bananas, what are you going to do about it? Why of course, you’re going to crank some jungle beats, learn some fancy moves, and protect your bananas, yes?

Well, this is exactly the scenario Disco Pixel from Boston have cooked up for mobile gamers. Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas was previously released on mobile devices and now the studio has ported the game over to Sony’s handheld, the PlayStation Vita. In a very quick twitter chat with the developer, Trevor of Disco Pixel calls the PlayStation Vita the natural home for Jungle Rumble.

Presumably, the Mofongo tribe was leading a peaceful existence right up until the rival banana-stealing tribe showed up on the scene. What would drive another group of monkeys to invade and steal the essential food right from underneath the Mofongos? Well, it seems the same problem which exists in the real Rain Forest also exists in Disco Pixel’s game. Humans, always screwing it up for someone else.

Jungle Rumble is mashup of a few gaming genres. It has elements of a rhythm game, sometimes it riffs from strategy games, and at other times it’s a head scratching puzzler. Like most mobile titles, the game is divided up into different worlds, or jungles in this case. Each world will have over a dozen levels for players to master. In order to earn a gold medal, players will not only need to finish the level in a certain time but also take out all the enemies. Failing to do so will greatly impact your overall medal score. Sadly, the game doesn’t make it clear as to how it scores each medal. Gold is pretty simple to figure out but I’m unclear as to what distinguishes someone earning a Silver instead of a Bronze medal. There is also the possibility of not earning any medal, which would be the result of taking too long to the complete the level and not defeating any enemies.

The basic mechanics revolve around keeping a steady beat and always knowing where the first beat is, in a four beat pattern. The first movement you learn is how to move from one leaf to the next. In order to do so, you alternate leaves by tapping each one, once, in an alternating fashion. If you manage to tap the screen correctly, the leaves around you will highlight in pink, which signifies you can move to that leaf. If you lose the beat, you will be prompted with a red X on the corresponding leaf. To assist those who may not understand where the first beat is in a 4/4 pattern, the developers have included four circles with a bouncing ball at the top of the screen. If you keep your eye on this and count the beat, you should be able to lock on pretty easily.

Once you have mastered the basic movement, there are a few other moves to learn. As you traverse through the tree tops, you will need to knock enemy monkeys out of the tree. In order to do so, you need to move to a leaf which contains coconuts. Once on a leaf with coconuts, you can then throw them at the enemies. To pull off this move, you tap on the leaf your standing on three times and then once on the leaf their standing on. Think of the pattern as 1-1-1-2. As you advance through the story, you’ll encounter larger red monkeys who move much faster. In order to successfully pass them, you’ll have to learn a move called the hot step. Once the hot step is learned then you can skip over many leaves and progress up the tree faster.

The last movement includes traveling with more than one monkey and earning monkey mojo. Monkeys are safer when traveling in groups. You’ll also need to think of monkeys as lives per level. The more monkeys you have means the more chances you can take to reach the top. You use the basic movement step to move one monkey on to a leaf with another monkey. Once you have two monkeys on a leaf, you can then move as a pair, as long as you stay in rhythm and earn something called monkey mojo. Pulling off perfect movements in succession is the only way to earn mojo, which will help you greatly in advancing in the more difficult levels.

There are a few things which hold this title back from being a total enjoyable experience and unfortunately they are somewhat significant. First, when there is a lot of action on screen, there tends to be a slight delay from the time you tap till the time it is recognized by the device. This is not ideal, especially when you’ve spent some significant time planning your moves. To have them not execute properly due to performance issues is beyond frustrating. The other issue I’m finding is if I make too many perfect moves, I’m at the top of screen waiting for the game to catch up. This is not ideal because sometimes an enemy monkey is standing on the branch above me, which of course means I die on their next move. Therefore, it almost feels like you need to strategize your moves better so not to rush ahead of the game. But now we’re finding ourselves playing a game within a game, and that is never fun.

Don’t get me wrong, Jungle Rumble is fun. I found my best play sessions were done in short spurts as the aforementioned issues do grind away on you when playing for an extensive period of time. It is imperative to strategize your moves, learn as you go, and remember the path of the levels. In a lot of ways, Disco Pixel have crafted a modern day memory game with other genres wrapped around it. When the game is running smooth and you have your mojo working, it is a delightful experience. Sadly, I just didn’t experience enough of them while hanging in the tree tops.