Review: The Jungle Book (Game Boy)

In this review, we swing through the Game Boy game The Jungle Book. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1994.

You take control of the character Mowgli as you navigate the dangerous jungle setting.

This game goes against the grain of many adventure games out there. Instead of reaching an end point, the goal is to collect all the gems in the level. When you collect every gem on the level, you’ll be either flown out of the level or you can make your way to the end of the level to confront a boss. Defeat the boss and you get flown out of the level. The number you have left to find is located on the bottom banner next to the gem icon.

Along the way, there are various items to note. One item is the sunflower. You generally stand next to one at the beginning of the level. Half way through the level, there is an additional flower to touch. If you touched the flower, it will rotate. If you die after, you’ll respawn at the farthest sunflower you managed to get to.

You get a certain amount of health. Run out of health and you die. This, however, can be fully replenished if you collect the grapes.

In addition to this, you can collect the Mowgli icon for an extra life.

Another item is the shovel. If you collect the shovel, you’ll gain access to a bonus level after you complete the level.

There are also weapons you can collect. By default, you have your banana weapon. This carries with it unlimited ammunition. You can collect the 2x banana which is the limited double banana. You basically throw two bananas at a time for an increase in width. There is the mask that grants temporary invulnerability. There are pebbles you can use too. One additional weapon is the boomerang. These weapons will fly back towards you, though it will count as used anyway. Toggle through your weapons with select.

There are a number of enemies you can encounter. There are monkeys, flying dots, poison spitting snakes, and crocodiles to name a few. Most can be defeated with the use of your weapon, but all do contain some degree of danger.

A silent killer in the game is the time. You have a limited amount of time to collect the gems. If you run out of time, you lose a life. Still, all gems that you have collected up to that point will be retained. You can collect the clock to add an additional minute to the timer.

In between levels, you’ll get a tally of different things you collect throughout the level. You”ll gain bonus points for your effort. If you collect the shovel, you’ll dig down below the screen for a bonus stage.

In this stage, you get to navigate around a small cavern and collect as many items as you can before the time is up. If you collect every item or the time expires, you’ll get to be moved on to the next level. You keep everything you find.

The first and biggest complaint I have is with the gem collecting system. You get no real advance warning that this is the objective. There are no hints prior to starting the game that this is what you need to do. The only hint you get is that if you collect a gem, the number next to the gem icon goes down. This can be easily missed by players. To make matters worse, there are no alternative ways of ending the level.

The idea of being forced to collect the gems to beat the level is very confusing. It is so confusing, the only FAQ writer for this game at GameFAQs wrote a guide on how to traverse the first level. When that writer made it to the end of the level, the writer wrote:

Granted, that should be the end of the level. But apparently there’s a glitch
in the game — this early in the programming, no less? — I think that’s
preventing at least me from going further in the game. I’m sure I’ve checked
everything. Maybe there was only one level meant to be there, or perhaps just
bad programming…

While the conclusion is untrue, it shows that not every gamer out there will figure out how to beat the level thanks to the cryptic gem rule.

Whats worse is that there are no real hints given for the locations of these gems. Some of them are held by a random enemy. Others are tucked away on a well hidden branch somewhere. A few are sprinkled along the ground. Because of this placement, you end up moving along the level to find about 7 or 8 gems, then offloading half of your lives trying to find that last gem or two. Heaven forbid you miss one early on because you are forced to backtrack through the level just to get to it. Did you die in the process? Respawning at end of the level, try again. So, the checkpoint system ends up hindering things in the process as well.

While this may be annoying in the first level, this system becomes downright fatal as levels become more difficult. My game ended on level 4 because of the really small stepping stones on water. Apparently, your character is made of sugar because he loses health very quickly by spending time in waste-high water.

Another complaint is the awkward movements. You can either jump high or jump long. To jump high, simply jump while standing still. To jump long, run using “B” and then execute a jump. Sometimes, there is a delay in the controls and your timing has to compensate for it. If you run into enemies, you can get damage. When you do, you bounce up. If you land on the enemy again, it’s possible to take more damage. With the blurring on the screen, it can be difficult to judge your jumps from time to time. A minor complaint here, but an issue nevertheless.

While there are a lot of complaints to be made against the game, there are a few positive points to be made. The boss fights (at least the few I encountered anyway) are well thought out. The weapon drops are reasonably plentiful. Also, the bonus level system is pretty well thought out.

Generally speaking, this is one of those games where one system pretty much ruins the game. The forced gem collecting system causes so many problems for this game. For one, it’s very hard to figure out. The only hint is a countdown on the corner of the banner. Something that can be easily missed. There’s no way of really tracking down the gems. You just need to know the exact location or which enemy is holding on to the gem. This increases the difficulty by a lot and robs the fun and replay value. The checkpoint system can frustrate matters further depending on which gem you miss in the level (which will happen). A few minor positives to be had, but they get overshadowed by the problems in this game.

The graphics are probably the biggest strength in this game. The backgrounds and characters are very nicely rendered. You really feel like you are in a jungle with the layered background. The movements of your character really give this game a cartoon style which works very well. The downside to the graphics is the quick movements that cause a fair amount of blurring. You can only fully appreciate the graphical detail while standing still.

The audio is OK. The music works fairly well. The sound effects are pretty decent. So, the audio is passable.

Overall, this is a game I wouldn’t recommend. The gem collection system makes this game confusing and difficult. the frustrations will set in when you are backtracking through the entire level looking for that last gem you somehow missed (which will always happen to newer players). The checkpoint system is well-intentioned, but the gem collecting system makes this system a hindrance half the time. Some minor positives such as the bonus level system and the boss battle’s, but they easily get overshadowed by the collecting system (which is 90% of the game). The graphics are the strong point, but can only be appreciated by standing still. Audio is decent. In spite of this, I still say this game can be skipped over.


General gameplay: 11/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 48%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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