Review by Rottenwood
"So Fun It's Almost Unfair"
It's a sad state of affairs that people will look at the cover of 'Super Monkey Ball,' or hear the title, and decide to never play the game. They'll write the game off as too silly, or a 'kiddie' game, or what have you. Never mind the fact that the game has wonderfully simple, addictive game play. Never mind that it has (arguably) the greatest collection of mini-games and party games ever seen on a console game. To some people, any sign of light-heartedness or cute characters in a game makes it frightening and a threat to their perceived masculinity. To this, I say: pah! Bring on the monkeys!
'Super Monkey Ball' is a collection of various games, revolving around adorable little monkeys in plastic balls. The monkeys seem to enjoy the proceedings, so it's safe to say that putting them in the balls isn't cruel or unusual. The main game is a variation on 'Marble Madness,' where you attempt to guide your little monkey towards the goal in levels of increasing difficulty. The earlier levels are fairly wide and straight-forward, making it fairly easy to not fall off the edges. However, later stages are downright cruel, with tiny, twisting little paths and other pitfalls. Still, despite the frustration, the game is a lot of fun and keeps you coming back for more.
The real meat of the game, though, is the great pile of multi-player games at your disposal. 'Monkey Fight' is a blast, where up to four players can roll around and try to punch each other off the edge with Extend-O Gloves. (I'm not sure if the term Extend-O Glove exists outside of cartoons, but you know what I mean, right?) 'Monkey Race' is, of course, a simple racing game where everyone hurtles towards the end as quickly as they can. Attack items (like in 'Mario Kart') and bumpers near the goal keep things fresh. The most creative is 'Monkey Target,' where you roll your ball down a hill and send it careening towards the water. The monkey then pops it open and uses it as a glider. The trick is to land on a small target in the middle of the ocean. Getting the timing and landing right is a fun challenge, and random obstacles add to the fun and difficulty. And as if that weren't enough, there are entertaining variations of miniature golf, bowling, and billiards to enjoy. Each game is a good challenge, but easily accessible to even casual players, as Sega kept the controls very simple.
None of the games will keep you hooked for hours on end, but as a total package, it's a riot. You and your friends will find yourselves playing just about every mini-game a bunch of times before finally calling it a night. Even if some of your friends normally dislike video games, they may give this one a shot when they see those adorable little monkeys in action. Watching one of the monkeys do their victory dance is pure entertainment.
The graphics in 'Super Monkey Ball' are crisp and clean, with lively colors. The frame rate stays nice and smooth, even during four-player action. And the sight of your little monkey tumbling around in his out-of-control ball is always good for a smile. Just a fun, enjoyable little game to watch.
The music is very pleasant, suiting the mood of whichever game it accompanies. A lot of it reminded me of 'The Sims;' especially the calm, beautiful piano tracks. It ain't the London Symphony, but it works nicely.
Heck, how can you hate a game called 'Super Monkey Ball?' The game is packed full of Sega fun and charm, providing a big smile and tons of simple, addictive game play. It won't grip you that long as a single-player experience, but it's multi-player gold. A terrific launch title, and a worthy purchase for anyone who can just relax and have some silly fun.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/20/01, Updated 11/20/01
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