A "Great Spirit" appears before the Juba Sage, the leader of the Mofongo Tribe of black-haired monkeys, and the sage soon learns why: members of the red-haired Kagunga Tribe are stealing the Mofongo's bananas. The Juba Sage calls upon the spirit to guide the Mofongo in resistance against the Kagunga because the alternative is starvation and collapse of the tribe. Armed with this guidance and a plentiful supply of coconuts, the Mofongo seek not only to reclaim their horde, but also to discover the motivation behind the Kagunga's apparently unprovoked assault.
What little plot Jungle Rumble has is conveyed through brief cutscenes that occur in between sets of levels. In these, characters speak primarily in simple phrases that broadly outline their situations or thoughts whenever a new game mechanic isn't being explained. The tone is mostly light-hearted, and while the game has its more serious moments, nothing said or done will cause jaws to drop or send chills up any spines. That said, there is always a clear reason for what the Mofongo do at any given point in the game, which is appreciated in most games, but especially in a game of this type.
To play Jungle Rumble, players hold the Vita vertically and exclusively use the touchscreen. The game is divided into three areas: Juba Falls, Kagunga Jungle, and Nadges Corp. Factory. Each of these is divided into a handful of locations that are themselves composed of several levels. In each level, players (i.e. the aforementioned "Great Spirit") issue four-beat commands to the Mofongo Tribe in time with the music playing throughout in order to move its members and attack enemies, a mechanic players familiar with the PlayStation Portable's Patapon trilogy will recognize. While there are visual cues to help with this, specifically pulsing at the edge of the screen as well as large yellow dots at the top of the screen (which disappear after three cycles of the beat), keeping up with the music is mostly an auditory affair. Failure to do so prevents the Mofongo from moving or attacking until players complete a cycle, which potentially leaves them susceptible to attack or, in auto-scrolling levels, falling off-screen.
The goal of each level is to retrieve bunches of bananas and/or defeat all of the enemies. The Mofongo are defenseless unless they have coconuts, which are picked up by moving over them. A separate command from moving is used to throw them. By default, only one monkey can move at a time, only one coconut can be picked up at a time, and only one enemy can be defeated at a time. However, with each successive cycle of the beat, provided players haven't made a mistake, an additional monkey can be moved. Moving multiple monkeys to the same location groups them together, allowing them to move and attack simultaneously. If a mistake is made, then only one monkey can be moved until enough cycles are completed to move the group again.
Changes in gameplay mechanics and enemy behavior are explained when encountered or needed as the game becomes more difficult, but it never becomes overly complex. However, players cannot just leisurely keep the beat and hope to succeed. They must ensure the Mofongo's survival by being tactful and efficient, and this requires a steady hand and an ability to make split-second decisions, from how many monkeys to move to which enemies to attack or avoid, distinguishing Jungle Rumble's gameplay from Patapon's move-and-attack-everything-at-once approach. For the most part, this works in Jungle Rumble's favor, but occasional difficulty hearing the beat combined with occasional input lag in larger and more populated levels makes the game more frustrating at times than it should be.
Upon completing each level, players receive either a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on three criteria: Time, Enemies, and Mofongo. Time refers to whether or not the level was completed in a certain amount of time, represented by a timer in the upper-right corner of the screen that eventually disappears. Enemies refers to whether or not all of the enemies in the level were defeated, and Mofongo refers to whether or not the level was completed without losing any Mofongo. Meeting any one of these criteria results in a bronze medal, meeting any two results in a silver medal, and meeting all three results in a gold medal. Beyond earning trophies, there are no rewards for earning these medals, though they do add challenge to levels and thus might appeal to players interested in that. Additionally, there is no set way to complete each level, so replaying levels provides opportunities to experiment in order to complete them as effectively as possible, but there are no rewards other than the medals and a sense of accomplishment for doing so.
To its credit, Jungle Rumble on the Vita is not just a direct mobile port. The tutorial has been improved, and there are bonus levels that not only increase the total number of opportunities to earn medals, but they also explain more complex mechanics that the cutscenes otherwise omit. The aforementioned visible timer is also absent from the original. However, these changes may not be substantial enough to encourage anyone who already has the game to pick it up on Vita.
The graphics are simple, cutesy, and colorful, another similarity the game has with the Patapon games. Fans of those games will like how this game looks, while others may not. Regardless, the sprite animations are fluid, and every object stands out, thanks in part to the Vita's large screen. As for the music that plays in levels, it is largely drum-based and changes depending on player performance (i.e. it becomes more complex the longer players go without making a mistake), going almost completely silent if a mistake is made. The title screen advises players to use headphones, and this is, pardon the pun, sound advice. As mentioned above, it is occasionally difficult to hear the beat when playing, and headphones help with that, especially if the game is played on the go. Not using headphones requires either paying strict attention to the pulsing at the edges of the screen (drawing attention away from the action) or increasing the Vita's volume. Unfortunately, the music itself is not very memorable, since the concentration required to keep the Mofongo alive and complete levels means that there isn't really an opportunity to listen to the music aside from the four beats necessary to play the game.
Overall, Jungle Rumble is a quirky addition to the Vita library that will be welcome to anyone with a love of bananas (the loading screens are full of banana-related expressions) and/or nostalgia for games like Patapon. Gamers without either may be turned off by the game's relatively slow pace and high difficulty curve, even with the content additions. Holding the Vita vertically can get uncomfortable after a long period of time, but unless players are trying to get gold medals, the levels are short enough that players can make progress without experiencing any physical problems. If players can overcome its issues, Jungle Rumble can take up a fair amount of time. It is regrettable that the same may hold true even if they cannot.