Spend 30+ hours with a monkey in a ball could drive a person insane. Billy rips into Super Monkey Ball and delivers his verdict on the game...
Marble Madness. That’s the first thing most people think of when they see Super Monkey Ball. I know those are the first words that came out of my mouth when I saw a screen shot of it. Back in the day, I was a huge Marble Madness fan and dumped many a quarter into MM machines. After sinking 30 hours into Super Monkey Ball, I’ve come to the conclusion that once in while, it’s really nice to have that old school feeling back once again.
I was up until 5am playing Monkey Ball last night... the second time this week. Last night, I was alone playing Billiards, and the night before I was with two friends playing Golf. This game can be beyond addictive. And notice I haven’t even mentioned the arcade level at all. Is it lame? No. Not at all. But it’s only one game in a pile of excellent games Sega’s crammed in this disc.
The action generally revolves around your monkey in a transparent ball. Which game you decide to play is up to you. There’s the regular Arcade mode where you have to maneuver your ball through each “floor” or level to get to the goal. The gameplay goes back to the roots of gaming. Get from point A to point B without dying, in this case falling of the edge. The first couple of levels are easy, but when you get to the later levels in the advanced or expert areas, you’ll be pulling your hair out while to your monkey constantly teeters on the edge of death. I have yet to beat the advanced or expert modes, but I keep coming back for more. Why? Because this arcade perfect port requires no quarters.
Monkey Ball in the arcade just gives you that portion of the game, but the “Super” added to it for the GameCube version is for all the added Party and Mini games Amusement Vision has added to Super Monkey Ball. “Super” is an understatement. Here’s all that’s included.
Monkey Fight: Your monkey ball has a spring-loaded boxing glove attached to it. Knock your opponents out of the arena the most in a certain amount of time and you’re the champ.
Monkey Race: Monkey Kart Racing. That sums it up. Different power ups and projectiles, and usual zip strips.
Monkey Target: Monkey Ball meets the Pilot Wings hang glider level. Add mines and bombs for mad death scenes.
Monkey Billiards: Play 9-Ball with monkeys! They scream as they bounce off of each other!
Monkey Bowling: Hurl your monkey to make pin death. It’s Bowling, what else can I say?
Monkey Golf: I originally thought it was just Mini-golf, but it’s more like Monkey suicide towards the final holes. Geometry and Physics can save a monkey’s life. It’s true!
One major note, these Mini Games and Party games are fun when playing alone, as well as with friends. With friends, don’t play late at night after consuming large quantities of fermented malt beverages (or Mountain Dew) or the neighbors might call the landlord. Just a warning.
Super Monkey Ball is very easy to pick up and play. The control stick and the A button are all you really need to know. In the multiplayer games like Golf and Billiards it gets a little more complicated because you can use trajectories and the Pythagorean theorem to direct your shot, but it’s still easy to figure out. Anyone can just grab the controller, and within minutes be blasting through levels or what have you.
Super Monkey Ball isn’t anything too mind blowing, graphics-wise. Of the three Japanese launch games, it’s the most basic. Yet, it’s the only game to constantly run in 60 frames per second. It moves extremely fast in single and 4-player split screen modes. I have yet to see a hint of slowdown. The graphics might not be all that eye popping, but everything moves quickly.
On the sound front, SMB is also rather bland. The sound effects of the monkeys and the balls are clean and crisp but nothing that couldn’t be done on another console. The music is a mixed bag of Techno-ish futuristic type music. Depending on which game your playing, it’s different, but the music loops quite often. The screams and voices of the monkeys do get a little repetitious, and once in a while in the arcade mode, I’ve popped in a CD (The new Garbage album - highly recommended) to change it up a bit. To be quite honest, I get so sucked into the gameplay I pretty much drown out the audio. The audio isn’t something you’ll remember Super Monkey Ball by.
I would have to say that Amusement Vision has truly surprised me with Super Monkey Ball. It has the soul of an arcade game, but has so much more to offer. Even though this title screams party game, it’s much more fun to play alone than, say, a Mario Party title. Old school is definitely back, and it’s a heck of a good time playing it on a GameCube.