Beating the lockdown drum until there’s no more air in it

Donkey Konga (2004)

Looking back on a miserable 2020, I have to say it’s pretty impressive that my family and I were in lockdown for several months now and we never ended up killing each other. Now, I didn’t have it as bad as others; there were four of us living in the house and we all generally kept to ourselves anyway, until hostile lunchtimes and dinnertimes of course.

Naturally I’d have preferred to hole myself up in my own house with the missus, so that’s exactly what I’ve done. I did this knowing I’d probably end up single, and my body would never be found, but at least it’d help me on the lonely nights. Of course, I’m only renting right now, which means I’m banking on a lovely old house price crash to occur after all this. You have to look for silver linings and profits when times are bad, you know?

The real shame of it for me is that I can fully work from home, which means I can only turn into half a couch potato. I suppose if we wanted to get all boring and sensible for a moment, this is important bcause it keeps me adhering to some sort of weekly routine. Otherwise I’d spend more and more time conked out in bed until I eventually metamorphed into an enormous, barely mobile slug, Kafka style.

Along with the work routine, where I entertain clients on calls while both of us pretend our respective countries aren’t on fire, it’s important to get some exercise as well. Since going into lockdown, my step counter day-to-day has gone right down, which you and I know to be a disaster. And I ain’t going out there to run or walk – there’s more poeple than ever milling about in public, social distancing be damned, and any one of those pukes could be breathing the virus all over me.

Back in my parents’ house, I used to have an exercise bike and a treadmill out in the shed (I know, I was surprised too), though it could get pretty dark and miserable out there. I once flirted with the idea of lugging one of the apparatuses indoors so I could use it in, say, my room. But that’s what’d really shatter the lockdown harmony and get the family all hating each other because, if you didn’t know, parents can hear any noise coming out of your room amplified by 100x the decibels.

Hence, even with parents as deaf as mine, exercise machines in my bedroom simply couldn’t work. The moment my squeaky treadmill would crank into gear and I’d start bouncing my size 10s off it, my parents would be on me at once, shouting incessantly up the stairs. They never hear your even louder call back either, so it won’t be long before they’re rushing in to stop you like they’re the Secret Service and you’re making a mad rush for the president.

It was this selective hearing that finished Donkey Konga for me. This is one of those games that I vividly recall buying, even as far back as 2004. And more than that, I remember wondering what the hell I was even doing, with that ridiculous box and the DK Bongos contained within. It wasn’t as if I was gonna be able to use those bongos for anything else, like my twelfth playthrough of Resident Evil 4. Mind you, that logic works both ways because good luck getting a nice jungle beat out of the RE4 chainsaw controller.

I’m not sure if I needed to say this, but Donkey Konga is a rhythm game. Remember how in the mid 2000s, Guitar Hero took the world by absolute storm? Well, Donkey Konga is nothing like that. For starters, holding a plastic Gibson electric guitar, which is still pleasantly embarrassing, looks a lot cooler than these big brown bongos. Guitar playing requires a little bit more finesse, know what I mean? HERE

But also, Guitar Hero proved a lot more popular because it had rock classics in there as well as a few mad tunes that you mightn’t have heard of at the time, like the notoriously difficult Through the Fire and Flames. On Donkey Konga, rather like Wii Music, the tracklist is severely (antiquated).

I’d love to just paste the whole list of songs here, because believe me, they’d speak for themselves. But suffice to say, All The Small Things is probably the newest track on there, and if you’ve ever wanted to drum and clap along to Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G-Minor, then here’s your chance.

That’s where it all gets hairy as a gorilla, the clapping. If you didn’t already dread the clap, you will soon enough. In the first place, clapping along to a song isn’t all that fun. It’s okay when the tempo is slow, but try mashing your hands together like a lunatic to 99 Red Balloons, and you’ll see it gets very tiresome very fast. Secondly, you really wouldn’t believe how loudly even a single hand clap travels through a house. Loud masturbators beware, your walls might be a lot thinner than you think.

That’s my abiding memory of Donkey Konga – finally dispensing with some of my teenage self-consciousness, booting up the game in a moment of weakness, giving the game a chance by clapping along to Earth, Wind and Fire, only to be shouted at and told to keep the noise down.

I resorted to just tapping the bongos’ faux-metal ring near the speaker that registers your clapping. Still stupid, but a lot less stupid than giving yourself a round of applause while Donkey Kong gurns and makes silly faces onscreen. That was the end of Donkey Konga in my house, although not the last time I’d be reminded of it. In fact, I probably see those bongos every day of my life. The old game shop I did some work for refused to take them in anymore.

To be fair, they also refused Guitar Hero guitars (Drum kit game) and the Super Scope. The reason for this was space, of course. Speaking of which, do you reckon my family would mind if I swapped my bongos out into the garage, filled the freed up space with my treadmill, and pounded on that instead? OK, the bongos take up far less space and make a lot less noise. But, even as a sweaty, breathy mess, I think I’d be a lot more comfortable and less bashful running a few kilometers on that beast than slapping those squishy bongos. (weak)

I never played multiplayer obviously. Well, I didn’t have a car, so how would I even transport something like that without being seen? And it’s not exactly something I bust out at a social gathering either. How could I ever live that one down?

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