Review by JRepute

"Engrossing Entertainment..."

When I first acquired the knowledge that my favorite game console game developer, Sega, would be releasing a new and innovative puzzle game with an enchanting multiplayer player experience, I was totally hyped. In fact, after the reading of a few previews and getting to know the basic premise of Super Monkey Ball, this title instantly became a “must-have” in my GameCube want list. Possibly surpassing the highly hyped work by Lucas Arts, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, and even one of the most anticipated Nintendo games in many years, Super Smash Bros.: Melee.

Some of the more “knowing” gamers out there may think that is a little foolish, and probably a meaningless exaggeration just to further stretch my point that Super Monkey Ball is not just any regular “good” game. That isn’t the case. Super Monkey Ball is a delightful feast of gaming entertainment.

Super Monkey Ball for the Nintendo GameCube prevails as a near perfect arcade translation. The game possibly has one of the most simplest forms of gameplay to learn and understand out of all games I have satisfaction or displeasure of playing. It can’t get any more elementary than guiding a monkey, inside a clear, plastic ball, to a standout finish line yards away.

Like I said, the game is nearly effortless to learn, but also inhibits an overshadowing challenge for mastering the game. The main and primary goal of Super Monkey Ball is to navigate your little monkey through various obstacles and reach the finish line alive, with the most points and bananas possible. Moreover, Sega and AV (the game’s developer’s) war far and beyond the call of duty to include a masterful variety of game modes, thus further expanding the time you will be there, sitting on yo’ ass, having some of the most engrossing, and addictive party game madness you probably have never experienced.

“Monkey Ball“

This is the center of gameplay Super Monkey Ball. Like mentioned above, your basic goal is navigating your crazy little monkey through mazes, walls, obstacles, rooms, and levels; which would probably be better referred to as “stages.” Overall, there are ninety different stages you can have the pleasure and challenge of going against. Ten of the stages transpire on the “easy” difficulty, thirty on the “intermediate” difficulty, and fifty on the “expert” difficulty. Throughout the monkey journeys, you also have the option of collecting bananas spread throughout the levels. A collection of one-hundred bananas is equivalent to a new life, and in later stages of SMB, you will most likely cherish each and every life you have.

The beginner’s difficulty of Super Monkey Ball should be more referred to as a “tutorial” featuring ten simple stages. When I first started on the “easy” mode, I actually found it quite to be quite a daunting task to beat, but of course, I was what you may consider a “newbie.” Multiple hours latter, I found the “easy” mode to live up to its name, easy. Go figure.

AV creates a big step for monkey baller’s with the leap from beginner mode to intermediate. Once you seem to think you have gotten quite used to the basics of Super Monkey Ball and feel a bit comfortable with the game, you start on intermediate and you find yourself back to the end of the pack trying to work your way to just to beat the first few levels. Ah, such joy, a new struggle for skill is born. But just like every game and any difficulty, time is practice, and practice develops skill. Which is what you will need to beat and conquer all thirty stages of intermediate. If mad skill is need just to beat intermediate...

...the I don’t know what to say about expert mode. Just to be honest, I will go up and admit, I have never beat expert mode. In fact, after about number twenty or so, I am commonly greeted with the foul words: game over. I probably haven’t tried it enough, but expert mode is just so HARD, not to mention the fact that there are fifty of these babies! And I’ll also admit, after my completion with all thirty of the intermediate stages, I indeed felt like a Monkey Ball god. Once again, the next step up the ladder of fame made me feel like a newbie. Of course, we all have our variety of skill, either way, good luck with this difficulty.

Another special reward you can receive for mastering Super Monkey Ball is extra, hidden, and unlockable levels. They all are accessed by completing an entire difficulty without one death (which occurs when you fall off the board).

“Monkey Ball” is the heart and core of the game. All other mini/party games are unlockable by the exhilarating and quite challenging task of single player. The experience isn’t the greatest in the world, but it does keep you coming back for more, just trying to beat the ‘impossible’ stage just “one last time.”

B

“Monkey Racing”

This spectacular mode is simple: Mario Kart with all the characters compressed down to a quantity of four and seemingly disguised in various monkey suits. I always loved Super Mario Kart, in fact, I would go as far to say it is definitely my favorite “racing” game of all time. So to comment that this “mini-game” in Super Monkey Ball, otherwise titled Monkey Racing Ball, just about tops Mario Kart in shear fun-factor, is one heck of a compliment just toward this racing adventure. It by no means includes the huge variety of racing maps, the extravagant lineup of characters, and the pure originality of Mario Kart, but it just so much _fun_!

Even a bit of varied traits is scattered among the four selectable monkey’s. Such as one monkey may have a better “jumping” skill (only done by ramps), or another may have a better “turning” skill. How about speed performance? Hardly noticeable, but _cool_ nonetheless.

Anyway, about the actual event. You have a selection of six different tracks (every two has a different difficulty, making the grand total: three difficulties). All tracks are completely different and shine in originality. Such as one course may be set in space with lots of bumps and obstacles, and another may be in the stratosphere with the plains of the Midwest peering in the background. You control the little monkey ball and zoom throughout the courses from usually sixty miles-per-hour to two-hundred miles-per-hour. Throughout courses are speed boosters which result in a three second long adrenalin rush. You can also make contact with “item” boxes to collect weapons or abilities. Such as a way to drop monkey peelings (to make other monkey’s spin out), give yourself a manual speed boost, shoot and turn opponents into ice cubes, etc. It’s all fun.

A-

“Monkey Target”

I’ll be straight up about this “target” mode. It is a decent feature of Super Monkey Ball. Nothing really special, nothing bad. The objective is as simple as it comes, you roll your monkey ball down a steep slope and upon the jump at the end of it, you use gliders to “glide” your monkey and land him one of a few islands. Each island is different and certain spots on the island mean for more or less points. Before every run, you spin an arrow to determine the scenario will be. Like fog in the sky, bombs which knock you off track in the sky, or bombs with knock you off track on the landing areas. Like I said before, it is an interesting feature, but doesn’t live up to most of the others.

C

“Monkey Fight”

Monkey Fight is a simplistic -boxing with monkey’s- game. You control your monkey with a attached boxing glove on the end of a spring. You press the “A” button on the GameCube controller to propel the “glove” with the goal of hitting your opponent/opponents out of the ring. Collecting power-up’s for your monkey boxer can often be a necessity to win, and the sweet thing is, the power-up’s never go away, each one only increases to what is already there. For example, with the BIG power-up, you increase the size of your glove, with a large collection of them, your glove can reach the size of Jupiter, exciting indeed. Other power-ups include ability to automatically swing around your “arm,” or increase the length of your arm. This is an exciting mode, but my only complaint is the serious lack of arenas (three total), which makes it a little bland.

B (‘A’ when played in four-player mode!)

“Monkey Billiards“

What do you get when you cross a hyper-active monkey inside a ball on a pool table with a two inch pool stick and the power to shoot him or her self across the table with invisible force? Hours of enchanting entertainment with billiards. It isn’t much of a simulation, but more like an arcadish mode. The physics aren’t as responsive, and of course you are only using a hollow plastic ball. Even with that, this feature of Super Monkey Ball is _very fun_!

A-

“Monkey Bowling”

In Monkey Bowling, you must aim your ball toward the pins (obviously). By doing so, you have to press a quickly moving side to side indicator and hope it lines up in the direction you wish the ball to go. You control the power of your throw by a so-called “power” bar. Anyway, Monkey Bowling can be a bit complicated for me, as the aiming indicator moves very quickly, though that is why the “spin” enhancement (used with the L and R buttons) is there, to try to spin your ball in the right direction at the right velocity.

For some reason, I really am not too impressed with the bowling mode of Super Monkey Ball. It can be entertaining at times, and boring at other times. Overall, this is my least favorite of all the monkey array of modes of gameplay.

C-

“Monkey Golf”

Last, but not least, the Monkey Golf is yet another superb feature of playing Super Monkey Ball. It is very simple, just point your ball in the direction you want to hit it, and swing away. Even though the actual control mechanics of Monkey Golf is as simple as it can get, the difficulty of some holes is rough. In some courses, you have to hit the ball in the exact spot and at a precise speed just to keep it from sidetracking into space and off the map, costing you two strokes. Like in real golf and most other games, with a little practice and patience, this can be a very exciting mode to play. There are eighteen holes to play on, on Monkey Golf.

B

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The sound of Super Monkey is nothing special, but not down right bad. There really isn’t much to comment about it. All events and movement have individual sound effects, such as the sound of hitting the ball in billiards, or running over a speed boost while racing. It’s all there, except if any developer wants their game to have a complete and masterful sound category, nice background music is needed. The background music of all modes of play in Super Monkey Ball is a bit bland, but at least it doesn’t keep my holding my ears in pain. Average.

The graphics of Super Monkey Ball are easily simplistic, in a beautiful sort of way. Don’t expect anything like Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, Halo or Metal Gear Solid 2; however, expect a complex display of superb polishing. Every thing in the game is greatly detailed, from the hair on the “two-inch” monkey’s back, or the two-dimensional clouds in the distant background.

Super Monkey Ball is the truly lives up to expectations set on pretty much all Sega games. Addicting, enjoyable, and original. Moreover, the game has a delightful selection of gameplay modes, spanking graphics, and first-class sound. And in my opinion, the engrossing multiplayer experience is up there with the ranks of Super Smash Bros., Power Stone, and Mario Kart. If it isn’t uncommon for you to have two or more fans over for some multiplayer game madness, Super Monkey Ball should definitely be part of your collection. If you are more of a lone gamer, it still isn’t a bad addition.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/11/02, Updated 03/11/02


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