Super Monkey Ball


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Ya gotta give credit to Sega for its willingness to take risks. This is the company that offered up the bold and innovative Shenmue, the bizarre "game" Seaman, and this quirky little "niche" game, Super Monkeyball.

Super Monkeyball isn't going to make anybody's list of "100 Greatest Videogames Ever." It's not a particularly ambitious game. Rather it's one of those pleasant surprises: a "little" game that is just fun to play. I'm glad they got it ready for the Game Cube launch. It's getting a little bit of well-deserved attention, and I think if it came out later it would probably be overlooked.

The premise of the game is simple, if kind of kooky in a Sega sort of way: you are a simian inside a translucent ball and you have to roll your way through 3-D mazes, collecting bananas, and you have to reach the finish line before the timer runs out. Lots of people have compared this to a hopped up Marble Madness and I think the comparison is very appropriate. Super Monkey Island is one of those games that you can just pick up and play--you don't even need to look at the instructions--so it has an old-school or "retro" feel about it. All those buttons on the game Cube controller? Forget them. All you do here is tilt you way through the mazes with the analogue stick.

The game has dozens of different mazes, and while the first few are a breeze, it gets pretty difficult pretty quickly. This is a finesse game--it's not a game you play when you want to let loose some frustrations. To the contrary, it may raise your frustration level more than a little.

The game also is unique in that it offers a "party game" mode. These party games have nothing to do with the main game; their only connection is the monkeys. The interesting thing is that these party games alone are worth the price of admission. Monkey Race is a game along the lines of Mario Cart 64 except, as you would expect, it has much cleaner and smoother graphics. Control is absolutely superb. In effect you get a racing game that is as fun as the "main" game. Monkey Fight is one of those "stand on a platform, pick up power ups, and knock the other guys off" games, while the intriguing Monkey Target has you roll down a ski-jump, hang glide through the air, and land on targets. Needless to say, these party games especially shine in multi-player modes, but the first and last are fun even solo.

There are also three unlockable games: mini-golf, bowling, and billiards and, again, they aren't just afterthoughts that have been tossed in. They are serious contests. Sega put a lot of effort into this top to bottom. If Sega had gotten sloppy, the whole package wouldn't fly.

In all Super Monkey Ball provides a lot of entertainment in one package. The graphics are very polished, but these are the kinds of games that make you forget about graphics in a hurry. The most important features are game play, control, and variety, and the SMB scores very highly in these areas. At the very least DP readers should give this a rent. You might well discover that you'll want to spend more than a weekend with it.


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Last updated: Saturday, December 13, 2003 11:55 PM