You are the great spirit, whom — up until very recently — had merely been content to spend your time passively watching over your own personal tribe of monkeys: the Mofongo Tribe. However, everything suddenly changed one day when an evil tribe of red monkeys — known as the Kagungas — showed up to abscond off with all of the Mofongo Tribe’s precious bananas. Not willing to see your tribe be starved to death by the evil crimson simians, you led your army forward — via the power of your rhythm — in a coconut flinging counter-offensive!
So goes the set up to Disco Pixel Studios’ Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas (out now, $3.99), which the developers have self proclaimed to be a Real-Time-Rhythm-Strategy game. If that description has left you scratching your head, then it might be better served to say that Jungle Rumble plays a bit like the lovechild between Checkers and Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven. In other words: you are navigating your army — one tree branch at a time — around a grid like structure of sorts, all while maintaining a rigid adherence to the ever present beat of the world’s tribal drums.
In the world of Jungle Rumble there are two basic actions that you will need to worry about performing: moving your monkeys about the battlefield, and throwing coconuts at the nasty Kagungas. To move any of your monkeys you must first tap your target simian, followed by the destination that you wish for them to move to, then next the target simian a second time, afterwards finally tapping your target destination one more time as well. To throw coconuts instead — assuming your monkeys have recently armed themselves by passing through a coconut containing square — you must first tap your own soldier three times in a row, followed by finally tapping the enemy ape last.
This all probably sounds fairly simple at first, but you must understand that all of this must be done perfectly in synch with the game’s beat or else nothing will happen at all. Furthermore, unless the first of these four beat-based actions were executed precisely at the beginning of a four beat set then it still won’t matter even if you each of your four taps were precisely in tune with the rhythm. Fortunately there is a timing bar at the top of the screen to help you know when the next four beat set actually begins, but – as you might have guessed – the fact still remains that Jungle Rumble is very difficult to play.
Further magnifying the game’s difficulty level is the existence of mojo, which accrues as you perform multiple four beat moves back-to-back without ever missing a beat anywhere in the middle. The amount of mojo you currently have determines how many monkeys you can simultaneously control, with any monkeys you pass over being picked up so long as the additional monkeys never become greater than your current mojo total. This is especially important because although a coconut cache will be emptied the exact moment any of your monkeys decide to pilfer it, an entire group collectively pilfering a coconut horde will all of them simultaneously receive ammo from the raid.
With enemies that will also be moving around the board in fixed patterns set to the beat as well, and also the fact that losing your mojo will only let you move a single monkey at a time until you build it back up, you ideally want to finish stages in one perfect motion. Due to this players with difficulty managing the beat will often find themselves barely finishing stages at all — where you performances are graded — or sometimes even failing entirely, and the fact that everything must start at the beat’s beginning doesn’t help either. The end result is a game that quickly becomes brutally hard — yet thankfully has very responsive controls — which for certain people, to whom a musical based challenge of this caliber is precisely what they’ve been searching for, will be a trip to heaven itself.
iFanzine Verdict: If you like monkeys — strategic puzzles – and rhythm games with a high level of difficulty, then Disco Pixel Studios’ Jungle Rumble is probably the perfect game to sate your need to heed the call of the beat. Everyone else should know that if they delve into this experience they will be met with fair controls, coupled with an utterly brutal beat to which they must constantly stay in step with. You just might find your next most favorite game ever here, but you must understand that it’s just as likely that this game could lead you to a premature loss of your hair as well.