November 30, 2004

Bongo Karaoke

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On an imaginary island in a faraway place, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong stumble upon a pair of strange looking barrels on a deserted beach. Naturally, they take the barrels to Cranky Kong who tells them that the barrels are actually special bongos that play music whenever they drum them or clap. Donkey Kong and his faithful sidekick Diddy Kong decide that they will use the bongos to collect bananas and become famous. From this, the new Gamecube video game Donkey Konga was born. Hippie drum circles, step into the future: Donkey Konga is here.

That’s right, the game comes with a special type of controller — a pair of bongos. Certain symbols cross the screen according to a beat, indicating the type of action to perform. The controller allows for hitting the left drum, the right drum and it also has a microphone for clapping.

Donkey Konga’s predecessors include physically interactive games such as Dance Dance Revolution which subscribe to the idea that video games can be a full-body experience, not simply exercise for the thumbs. Yes, after playing for about thirty minutes, my friend, Chris Sosa ’05, and I were both sweating, hands stinging from the frenetic clapping and bongo-beating. Just as Cornell’s nerdier students used DDR to stay in shape, groups of spectacled engineers are sure to be crowded around a big screen television in the lobby of Appel, hitting sets of bongos enthusiastically with their massive forearms.

The package includes various modes of game-play, but they mostly consist of using the bongos to play songs, pursuant to some particular goal. The most fun to be had seemed to center around two-player games such as battle modes. Believe me, bongo-slapping for the highest score in Devo’s “Whip It” can get pretty ferocious. Whip it! Whip it good!

A large part of the fun is the game’s song selection. I’m certain that many others have dreamed of playing the bongos to such hit songs as Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” the Pokemon theme song, or even a special Donkey Kong rap. Yeah, it’s all there. Imagine playing the drums for a sold-out crowd at the Meadowlands. That’s what it’s like.

The game does have a few shortcomings, though. For one, right now the bongos only can be used for one game, namely Donkey Konga. Apparently, there are plans for the release of a second game, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, but it is not set to see the light of day until May of 2005, at which point many of us will have already graduated, and will have no need for more tools of procrastination. But because there is only one use for the bongos, the game can get old quickly since there’s not much else to do with them. Regardless, it’s hard to keep playing after your hands start bleeding.

Also, the microphone sensor used to detect clapping can be too sensitive. This sensitivity can be adjusted, but then the player risks having his own claps left unnoticed. This means that oftentimes a player’s clap will register on his opponent’s bongos, decreasing his accuracy and, subsequently, his final score. I often used the simpler strategy of bending over and yelling into my opponent’s microphone. That works just as well.

But really, those are nitpicky points. Donkey Konga is fifteen minutes of fun for the whole dorm, or the whole house, or the whole whatever. Let go of your inhibitions and beat your bongos like no one’s watching. If I was stranded on a desert island, I would want three things: a gun, Pride and Prejudice, and Donkey Konga. Beat the drums like your ancestors never left the jungle. Buy Donkey Konga today! Approximately $50.

Archived article by Walter Chen
Sun Staff Writer