XBOX REVIEW: SUPER MONKEY BALL DELUXE

Though the concept may be novel, the gameplay of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe is much more than a novelty. It combines action and puzzles and requires skillful manipulation as you traverse all kinds of challenging terrain inside a transparent sphere. You're not actually playing inside a sphere, a monkey is. It all kind of makes sense, read on.

You don't even actually control the transparent sphere directly, which we'll just call a ball from now on. Instead it's like playing a pinball game and moving the actual box around to influence the direction of the ball. Tilting it in various directions will cause it to go up ramps, into targets and down lanes. The Super Monkey Ball doesn't have any extraordinary powers but the monkeys do. The ball itself doesn't jump, fly, bounce or hover of its own volition although it's prone to a multitude of incidental movements depending on how it's handled.

Each level is a race to finish line. Between the monkey in the ball and the checkered flag is an obstacle course filled with ramps, twisting paths, moving objects, sharp turns, dangerous precipices and other monkeys in balls. There are different paths that one can take as well as switches that you can activate to stop or slow down some of the more challenging obstacles, but this can rob you of precious time. It's quite possible to get through each level if you go slow enough. This will certainly help beginners to map out a strategy as they learn the outlay of the level while they develop the necessary skills to compete.

Dr. Bad-Boon has stolen all of the monkeys' bananas. To foil him, four monkeys enter his mazes to collect the bananas that he's hidden. The winner is the monkey with the most bananas. That's it for the story.

Super Monkey Ball first made its appearance on the Cube in 2001. This version contains all of the levels from the original as well as the sequel for a total of 154. But wait there's more. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe contains 46 new maps. That's a lot of gameplay. I didn't get through a quarter of this game before deadline. It gets more involved in each subsequent stage. The levels aren't very long. Some don't even last a minute. You get fifteen chances to complete each level. What you want to ultimately do is avoid falling - and that's not an easy thing to do.

Multi-player modes abound. You can race against three other players in any previously unlocked level in the Challenge mode. Parents take note that the gameplay is non-aggressive. Players are forbidden from knocking each other out of play. It may be competitive but it won't instill bad sportsmanship in impressionable gamers.

Using various generic sports games as an influence, there are 12 mini games that are perfect for a party setting. You'll play Monkey Ball versions of baseball, soccer, bowling, billiards, tennis and golf to name a few. Not all of these games are great. Some suffer from sluggish controls. There is no online mode but what's here more than makes up for it. One the downside, there is some traceable slowdown and the load times can last longer than some of the levels. Also, the audio isn't mixed properly with the monkeys' dialog which is often much louder than the background sound.

This isn't the best looking version of Super Monkey Ball. It's not even as good as the original Cube version and although I haven't seen the Xbox version yet, it just has to be better than this. It's too angular. It's rough and jaggy in places but the lower-quality looks don't interfere with the gameplay.

For pure arcade fun you can't go wrong with a rental of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe. You can be up and playing the game in seconds but how long until you continue playing it is up to you. Beware, it's highly addicting.

Preview by Vaughn

Warning: Putting a monkey in a plastic containment sphere or "ball" may result in physical harm to the monkey or you, if the monkey ever gets out and gets ahold of your neck.

Monkeys are playful creatures whom just happen to be incredibly strong. This means they can bring untold harm to your person if they become agitated or scared. Luckily Sega's monkeys can never escape thier confinement and will always remain placid and benevolent, even after numerous droppings off cliffs at the hands of your crappy gaming skills.

If you've always wished cold hard death against GameCube owners who can play Super Monkey Ball 1 or 2 any time of day, you're a complete psychopath. That being said their reign of terror will soon be over as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe will be appearing on the PS2 and Xbox in March 2005. That does nothing to remove the bitter tang of knowledge that PS2 and Xbox owners will never have an intimate session with Link, but baby steps my pretties, baby steps....

Putting the DX in DeluXe, this compilation consists not only of Super Monkey Ball 1 & 2 from the Cube, but also 46 exclusive new boards Nintendo fanatics have never seen before. Players will also receive an all new Challenge Mode which integrates all of the games difficulty settings into one cohesive area, rather than segregating them as in the original games. The Cube versions 12 party games will also be included and PS2 owners will need the multitap to play them with up to 4 players.

Looks like the spoils have come to those who wait. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe ships this March. Remember, hamsters and gerbils in balls = good. Monkeys in balls = cute but extremely freakin' dangerous.

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System: PS2
Dev: Sega
Pub: Sega
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Daemia
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
4.0