Indie Quickie: Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A touchscreen-tapping rhythm puzzle/strategy game about rival monkey tribes fighting for bananas and jungle supremacy.

Who made it and where can you get it? Boston studio Disco Pixel has launched Jungle Rumble, originally released last year as an iOS app, on PlayStation Vita with enhanced features and expanded content. Download it from the PlayStation Store for $4.99.

How much did we play? It’s hard to say exactly since I’ve been playing short sessions of a couple stages at a time, but altogether I’d put my play time somewhere in the ballpark of an hour and a half to two hours so far. I completely finished the first of three total worlds and am now a little over halfway through the second world. That’s 11 full stages and a few optional side levels down, plus some replay time spent going back to try for missed gold medals.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? I haven’t come across any monkey business as far as bugs or technical flaws. But just to make it perfectly clear, Jungle Rumble is built exclusively around touchscreen input and requires playing with the Vita in vertical orientation. Comfort level will vary for each player, but I preferred playing with the Vita laying down on a table or some other fixed surface (like my leg) because for me it didn’t take long for my one hand holding the system upright to fatigue. It also provided for greater stability as the game basically turns the Vita into a finger drum pad.

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Why should you play it?

    • Patapon of the Jungle: Although the input method and presentation are completely different, Jungle Rumble‘s similarities to Patapon become apparent the moment you begin tap-tap-tapping to guide your monkey crew through jungle trees teeming with angry, red primates. Each branch/leaf is essentially a drum surface. Action commands are given by tapping out different sequences in rhythm to the beat. Alternately tapping between the current branch and an adjacent branch in a 1, 2, 1, 2 cadence is the base command for directing movement from one space to the next. Once a branch growing coconuts is reached, projectile attacks can be launched by tapping three times on the armed monkeys and then a fourth time on an adjacent enemy to confirm the target. Eventually a more advanced hot step move with a middle double-tap added to the beat is learned to allow for jumping ahead two spaces rather than only one.

    Using these commands, the objective for each level is either to reach a hand of bananas or eliminate all of the simian hostiles from the tree. Doing so is a lot easier said than done though. The beat command system is shallow–like Patapon, repeating the same few inputs does wear thin over long sessions–but putting the moves into effective action on the arboreal dance floor requires quick identification of enemy movement patterns, a little bit of strategy in how commands are strung together and monkeys are grouped (they can be moved as individual units or stacked up on a single branch to act in concert), and pinpoint timing to chart a safe course along the branches without losing track of the beat. Failing to maintain a constant command string or missing even a single tap are mistakes that typically lead to game over. At least the bad monkeys in this game don’t fling poo at you.

    • Nice Vertical: There’s a reason Jungle Rumble requires playing with the Vita in vertical orientation, and it goes deeper than simply giving the brightly-colored graphics maximum room to pop. All that beautiful OLED screen real estate is used to display levels that sprawl vertically so you get the sensation of swinging your band of monkeys higher and higher up a tree. In some instances the levels stretch so tall that you have to be extra quick to ascend the tree while staying ahead of the steadily scrolling screen. Red monkeys aren’t the only nemesis in this jungle.

    • All About That Bass: For a game about rhythmically tapping on the touchscreen like a drum, it’s only appropriate that the music goes heavy on percussion instruments and thumping bass lines. Congas, cymbals, wood blocks, snare drums, and maracas lay down an energetic beat that intensifies as you build momentum, or quiets if a mistake is made. Fortunately the game helps make sure the beat is always clear and easy to follow. A ball bounces across a line of four dots at the top of the screen in sync with the beat, functioning sort of like a metronome so you have a visual indicator to look to as a guide if needed. Another nice touch is the way each level opens with a short period of inaction so you can feel the tempo before the countdown to game time begins. Throwing on a pair of headphones isn’t necessary, but certainly helps to fully immerse in the music for an infectious listening experience that immediately gets you in the mood to tap your fingers and bop your head.

Parting Thoughts: Beneath its candy coated shell and upbeat tunes, Jungle Rumble is a deceptively challenging little game of timing and light strategy that is simple to pick up but not shy about tossing a monkey wrench into the works or dropping a banana peel to trip you up just when you feel like you’ve mastered how this jungle rumbles, sometimes to the point of trial-and-error frustration. It’ll drive you bananas from time to time, no doubt. Just finishing a stage generally doesn’t cause much strain, but if you want to pile up gold medals to go alongside your stash of yummy bananas, you’ll have to beat the speedrun clock and defeat all red monkeys on the scene without losing any of your own monkeys in the process. Accomplishing these bonus objectives is the only way to score gold, but after the first world you’ll need to be a finger-tapping maestro to consistently pull off the trifecta. As a cheery casual game to snack on in bite-size chunks, Jungle Rumble is a fun addition to the Vita library.

Disclosure: A free review code for Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas was provided to VGBlogger.com for coverage purposes.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!