There will always be a debate about emulation vs original hardware. Some argue that you can only experience the true essence of a game upon playing the original. Others aren’t that fussed or simply can’t afford or access the original hardware. Why should they miss out? I tend to fall into the later category. I would never have played Congo Bongo had it not been for emulation…and I’m glad I did.
Congo Bongo (also known as Tip Top) is a platform game developed and released by Sega for the arcade in 1983. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.
One night, deep in the jungle, an unnamed safari explorer has his tent set on fire by a huge ape named Bongo. The explorer then proceeds to chase Bongo to try and capture him.
The explorer must pursue Bongo across four screens. Whilst in pursuit, there are a number of obstacles for you to evade and conquer. These include jumping across water, dodging other jungle creatures who wish you harm, or evading coconuts thrown by Bongo. You are unable to attack any of the other jungle animals, but you can jump over them to avoid being hit by them.
The four stages include:
- Stage 1 – The hunter must climb a series of cliffs whilst dodging coconuts thrown at him by Bongo and avoiding the smaller monkeys who try to throw him off the ledges.
- Stage 2 – The hunter must cross a swamp by riding on the backs of diving and swimming hippos. There are also poisonous snakes and scorpions to avoid.
- Stage 3 – The hunter must cross a plain and crouch into holes to evade the horns of charging rhinos. He must then climb more ledges to get to the next stage.
- Stage 4 – The hunter crosses a second swamp with lily pads, fish, and hippos. Once you reach the other side of the swamp, you must dodge more charging rhinos that are blocking the ledges where you can capture bongo.
One you reach the end of level four the game repeats from the first level with increased difficulty.
How Does It Handle?
I think our hero moves at a good speed and is easy to control once you get used to the isometric view. I find it helps to rotate my controller to match the directions he will go on the screen. The jumping is tight too. No complaints there. As you can imagine from old arcade games, this is a tough game to master. I think I’ve only ever managed to get to level five or six before losing all my lives.
I think this game looks great for 1983. I love the blue of the water, and the animation of our hero as he climbs out of the holes and climbs up the ledges of the mountains. I think the animals are nicely animated too. No issues for me here.
Music & SFX
There is no intro music or in-game music, but there is a nice little piece of celebration music as you pass each level which for some reason reminds me more of a wild west game than it does a jungle game. There is also a strange little riff when you die and float up to heaven.
The noise that the coconuts make as they are being thrown and bounce down the mountains is annoying, as is the low level bassy noise when the rhinos are on screen.
I can imagine that when this game was released it had tons of replay value. I can envisage groups of friends hanging around the machine seeing who could get the highest score. I can also see this game being quite addictive too. There is something about it which draws you back to it.
Did I Complete The Game?
I don’t think this the sort of game you can complete but I only reached level five or six before losing all my lives.
What The Critics Said:
Computer and Video Games: “Donkey Kong in three dimensions is the fascinating idea behind Tip Top. (No rating)“.
“I think this would have been a good game in its day. I like the look of it, but the music just doesn’t fit for me. It is also incredibly difficult. Other than that, I can see this game becoming addictive.”
What are your memories of Congo Bongo? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Arcade: Jungle Revenge in 3D – Tip Top’. Computer and Video Games. (July 1983). Issue 21:30.