Review: Jungle Speed

Sometimes, entertaining kids can be hard. For instance, the other day we were celebrating the end of our school year in my classroom by playing some games, and some of the girls were interested in learning a few new ones. However, every time I taught them something, they would play it once and be ready to move on. And it’s not like these were long games! I mean, they played one round of Scrabble Slam and were ready to move on within 2 minutes! In a world in which stimuli are all over the place, it can be hard to keep a kid – or anyone, for that matter – interested for a long time.

That’s why I’m so impressed with Jungle Speed. Released in 1997, the game manages to pull off a miracle with just a few components – holding the attention of the young and old alike for several playthroughs. My students ask to play this game on an almost daily basis, and each time it hits the table, we know that things will soon get far too loud and far too hilarious. So what is it about this game that makes it so engaging?

Review: Jungle Speed

King of the Jungle

There’s not much to Jungle Speed. The game comes with a deck of cards featuring a variety of colorful patterns, as well as a few other special cards. There’s also a yellow, rubber baton called the Totem. All of these elements fit in a nice red pouch. You’ll also need 2-8 players, but you’ll have to be the one supplying that.

What it lacks in parts, Jungle Speed more than makes up for in fun. The cards are shuffled and a stack is placed in front of each of the players. Players then take turns flipping over cards one by one. If the shapes on the cards of two players ever match (ignoring the color), then they both rush to grab the Totem. Whoever grabs it first passes all of their face up cards to the losing player, who adds those cards to the bottom of their face down stack. The first player to run out of cards wins!

Jungle Speed cards
Can you find the match?

There are a few other elements, including a few special cards, that add a few wrinkles, but the overall gameplay is very basic. And at first, people will question why they are playing this game. A description doesn’t do it much justice, and it seems so simple that players will initially just casually flip their cards and hope that this ‘boring’ game ends quickly. However, the moment of that first match, things change. They may act cool if they don’t grab the Totem on their first try, but I can guarantee that they will be more on their toes the second time.  

For me, the different responses to card matches fall into three basic categories:

  1. The quick grab. This is the fairly standard option in which both players notice the match and they both go for the Totem.  One player grabs it, the other doesn’t, and we all get a little “ooh” in and move on. This is the most frequent and least exciting of the categories.
  2. The complete miss. This occurs when one player is totally oblivious to the fact that their card was matched, even though everyone else at the table seems to know. This is a great option for the facial reaction alone. You can watch the moment of realization crawl across their face, and you can’t help but all laugh together as they sadly add cards to the bottom of their deck.
  3. The war. This is occurs when both players get their hands on the Totem. While some of the more peaceful players may give up, others begin a full tug-of-war. I’ve seen players go down to the ground and wrestle.  I’ve seen bloody knees. Trust me, I’ve got scars. A slight variation to this is when both players go for the Totem and it ricochets into the floor. Chairs go flying as players crawl under tables or push other people aside in order to get their hands on the Totem. These moments are rare, but they are fantastic.  

What More Do You Need?

I could keep writing in order to stretch out this review, but there’s honestly not that much to this game. It’s a simple concept, and it’s executed perfectly. I have yet to break this out and not have the game getting too loud for polite company within 5 minutes. It’s amazing how quickly different sides of your friends come out. They will be screaming at you as if you ruined their lives one moment, then laughing maniacally with the Totem in their hand the next.  

If you can’t tell, I really like Jungle Speed, and I really think you should pick up a copy. You can break it out at any time, and the rules are so simple that people can easily jump in within 5 minutes. So go and find yourself a copy. Just make sure you stretch before playing…

Just don’t eat the Totem…

Jungle Speed is available on Amazon, but it’s really expensive for some reason! We recommend that you check out Game Surplus for a much more appealing price.

Highs

  • Laughter is almost guaranteed
  • Incredibly easy to learn
  • Very few parts

Lows

  • Not for those who don’t like speed or quasi-dexterity games