Younger players might have a ball monkeying around with Sega’s latest adventure.
Aimed at a younger demographic, I can’t really berate Super Monkey Ball Adventure for not being the game that I want it to be – despite how immature I may act at times. This game takes the Monkey Ball series in a logical new direction but it doesn’t actually reach its destination.
Super Monkey Ball Adventure still incorporates the monkey-in-the-bubble platform/puzzle premise but it incorporates a story that includes character interaction, hence the word “Adventure” in the title. The Story mode is kind of like seeing your favorite Saturday cartoon series made into a big-screen movie – of the low budget variety starring Eugene Levy as someone’s dad.
If you’re unfamiliar with the basic gameplay of Monkey Ball read on. Using the pair of analog stick controllers on the PS2 you maneuver a large ball around that has a monkey stuck in it. Don’t ask. The environments are obstacle traps filled with hills, ramps, ledges, booby traps and other precarious perches. Some of these environments are continually moving forcing you to think before you act, hence the puzzle-solving aspect of the gameplay. The list of moves in previous Monkey Ball games was rather limited to rolling and bouncing around. In this game you can jump, stick to walls, hover, combust into flames, become invisible and even deliver punches courtesy of a cartoon inspired, spring loaded boxing glove. The gameplay is an amalgam of platforming and puzzle-solving but the bottom line is to keep the monkey ball rolling to the end of the level and not end up falling off the platform.
In the great land of the five Monkey Kingdoms, disharmony has befallen the individual kingdoms and several factions are unwilling to give their blessing to the union of the Prince and Princess. Once a happy place, all of the kingdoms are in turmoil over various situations and to add insult to injury many un-well wishers wish nothing but doom on the two love monkeys who have taken refuge at Jungle Island. Here they run into the
Monkey Ball gang consisting of AiAi, Mee Mee, Baby and Gon Gon who all agree to take on the quest of lending a hand to the various kingdoms to help them out of their dilemmas in an attempt to restore happiness and allow the Princess and Prince to marry. I’m sure that somewhere in the game developers’ handbook there has been a market study indicating that Princesses and Princes appeal to the most impressionably demographic (anyone under 10) with the most disposable income (that would be mom and dad).
The developers realize that having the monkey roll around in a ball, and you can choose any of your favorites at the outset to do this with, can get a little tedious so they have included a story that involves you doing different tasks for other monkeys throughout the five kingdoms. Most of them are fetch quests in which you traverse through each challenging environment to pick up and deliver a specific item. Now that the game includes new moves the tasks can be a little more imaginative including destroying a bee’s nest. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
While this may be all fine and dandy, there still remains one huge annoying quandary: The monkey never leaves the ball. At no time can you escape from the ball and do some things that come naturally to monkeys such as climb, jump, swing or huck your feces around. This is frustrating, not to mention malicious treatment of the damn monkeys. Has the SPCA been notified about this game?
What this game does well is to establish a gameplay format that is easy to understand and relatively easy to play. The pace is relaxed and focused, making it very comfortable and enjoyable to play in a mindless kind of way. It doesn’t get particularly frenetic, at least not in the Story mode, and considering how smooth and responsive the controls are with the dual analog sticks controlling the ball and the left and right shoulder buttons controlling the camera there isn’t much to complain about from a technical standpoint. Sure the gameplay gets redundant, but so do many classic games. The environment keeps changing and new moves are added so there are always slight changes to keep one interested.
For a little more spice on your banana there is a Challenge mode that lets you run the obstacle courses within a given time limit. There is also a four-player Party Games mode that features mini-games such as Monkey Race, Monkey Target, Monkey Fight, Monkey Bounce, Monkey Canon and Monkey Tag. This collection of mini-games games are really easy to pick-up-and-play and are perfect for parties where youngsters need more stimulation brought on by heavy doses of sugared drinks and treats.
Graphically the game is firmly relegated to the average category. At least you can see the layout of the area clearly and know immediately where to go, unless of course it’s part of the puzzle to confuse and confound you. All the graphic elements including the trees, grass, rocks, structures and surreal flourishes do not blend very well. They all look prefabricated and not naturally occurring. The monkeys are cute but that can really get on your nerves after a while. They use an annoying monkey chat that sounds like baby talk. The music is also a little irritation, it’s somewhere between a circus melody and a lullaby. I know that adding Nine Inch Nails to the soundtrack might be a little harsh but tunes with a bit more meat on them surely wouldn’t offend the kids.
Super Monkey Ball Adventure is at least recommended for a rental. It’s good clean fun but the smile on your face, like the one painted on a clown, will be wiped off in time.