JungleHeart is an endearing action game that’s perfect for little kids. In fact, it drew my kids to the computer like cats to fresh catnip. And while it has its share of rough edges, most of its shortcomings are easy to overlook.
Developed by Russian programmers White Elephant, JungleHeart tells the story of Joy, an elephant who lives in the magical Banana Land. He goes on a quest to discover why Banana Land has been besieged by bad animals and horrible storms.
But this is no ordinary elephant. Not only can he fire water at his enemies using his trunk, he can also fly. While roaming the skies, he’ll need to collect rainwater from leaves to replenish his ammunition, and touch an occasional butterfly to replenish his flying ability. If he goes for too long without a butterfly, Joy falls to the ground and has to roll like a huge armadillo.
Joy also collects magical coconuts. When he has enough, he transforms – first into a woolly mammoth who trades his water spout for icicle shards, and then into a blue mammoth who shoots four-way ice shard blasts from his trunk. These weapons help Joy as he squares off against evil jungle animals. There are flocks of birds who fly at him, crocodiles that look more like dinosaurs, and plenty of other nasties. There are even bosses – tougher, bigger bad guys – that Joy will have to fight every few levels.
None of the action is too violent – the game is perfectly suitable for young players. Birds disappear in a drifting cloud of feathers, for example, and the crocodiles vanish into bursts of spheres.
All of this is all wrapped in an irresistibly cute, animated environment. The soundtrack and sound effects are equally cute. The game even features parallax scrolling, so you can see the background passing by as you fly through the jungle.
Joy’s story is recounted between levels by a baboon who’s the spitting image of Rafiki from The Lion King. And this is where some of the game’s rougher aspects begin to show. It’s clear that English is the developers’ second language. The monkey’s dialogue – and some of the terminology used in the game’s help screens and menus – is awkward and occasionally grammatically incorrect (including misplaced punctuation). This may make some parents uncomfortable with passing it along to young players.
The game also lacks any sort of documentation aside from help screens. I couldn’t even find recommended system requirements on the developer’s website (you can download a free version and try it out before you buy). And a few amenities I’ve grown to expect, such as an option to change from full-screen to window mode, were also missing in action.
JungleHeart may be a bit rough around the edges, but its heart is in the right place. It’s a delightfully crafted side-scroller suitable for young players.