Gameplay involves combat, jumping, and counterattacking. While the traditional GameCube controllers are compatible, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat uses a pair of bongo drums to control Donkey Kong's actions. Hitting the left drum causes him to move left, while hitting the right drum causes him to move right. Hitting both drums at the same time causes him to jump. Clapping one's hands or hitting the sides of the drums also causes Donkey Kong to clap, which has various consequences depending on the situation.
This is a unique game in the nature of play; it is a platformer where the goal is not simply to get to the end of the level. The goal is to get as many points, or "beats", as possible. Beats are obtained by grabbing bananas during gameplay, and lost by getting hurt or touching the ground.