Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll

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            The Super Monkey Ball games have been noted as quite a respected Puzzle game series in the past. The debut GameCube outings that arrived in Europe back in 2002, Super Monkey Ball and later Super Monkey Ball 2, have earned themselves a reputation of being captivating dexterity challenges and frantic multiplayer gaming, while the handheld titles on Nintendo consoles have been praised for the accuracy of their conversions. Even the iPhone and iPod Touch releases, though having a bumpy start, have been warmly received. Wii however, has only had the decidedly disappointing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz to it’s name up to now, and so Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll is charged with finding that elusive middle ground between being faithful to it’s predecessors and remaining appealing to Wii’s new all-encompassing audience.

            Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll borrows much the same template from earlier home console releases in the series, using largely the same aesthetic. The single-player and multiplayer mini-games are the main modes again, but a co-operative version of Electronic Theatre Imagethe single-player exists as a pleasant distraction. The single-player game follows the typical Super Monkey Ball formula, offering a number of increasingly difficult individually themed worlds each comprised of ten levels, and true-to-fashion, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll also features a number of seemingly random bonus games at set intervals that are almost as fun as the main game.

Controlling movement by guiding the floor and therefore the ball’s momentum, rather than directly controlling the ball itself, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll aspires to the instantaneous gratification and Arcade style play of the GameCube original, but seems to be scared of creating too big a challenge for the players. Bumps in the road rather than hurdles, the much easier difficulty could well be attributed to the expectation that many of the game’s players won’t be as trained in the art of the steady and precise gestures as the long-time fans. Additionally, the imprecise nature of gesture controls could have been a decision to highlight the optimum routes through the earlier levels, and hem many with almost impassable walls. Still, that being said, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll doesn’t take too long to offer some intelligent exploration of the structure it does have, and even the most ardent fan will find some interesting design in the exceedingly wide levels.

            That’s all while playing with the Wii Remote however, and doing so with the balance board is an altogether different proposition. Offering the same centre-of-gravity Electronic Theatre Imagevisualisation as Wii Fit, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll’s Balance Board design is undoubtedly fun, but a frustratingly interpretable experience along with it. Beyond the first few worlds most will give up and settle in for a journey with just the standard Wii Remote set-up.

            Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll offers twenty-one mini-games, divided between those playable with just the Wii Remote and Wii Remote & Nunchuck. As with most mini-game compilations, there are a number of reliably fun games and a few duds, and as Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll features a noticeably trimmed catalogue compared to that of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, it’s a shame that not all the mini-games can stand-up to repeated play. Monkey Target is thankfully as compulsive as it ever was, and along with Monkey Race are the usual highlights of the options on the mini-game menu. Pinball Battle if frantic fun, though somewhat annoyingly unresponsive at times, and Seesaw Ball is an entertaining little distraction in which a ball falls from the sky and the player must tilt the platforms it rolls onto, guiding it towards the exit; collecting as many bananas as possible alone the way of course. The lowlights however, are seemingly pointless additions to the game’s retail disc. Balloon Race, in which players pump the Wii Remote to raise or lower their balloon as they face birds darting towards them, is unoriginal and uninspired, and fun for only a minute. Ninja Stomp sees the player flipping up a mat to avoid bombs and shurikens, but lowering it to collect sacks of gold. Without a doubt, a one-time play for most gamers.

            The visual quality of Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll screams SEGA’s traditions: brightly coloured, idyllic and without blemishes. The game certainly has its’ own charm, Electronic Theatre Imagebut seems undeveloped in many areas. The pleasant mix of pastel shades is certainly suited for a typical Wii audience, but the fact that the Monkey Snowboard mini-game has you apparently skating on ice rather than snow, though in-keeping with the general design, seems a little limp. The soundtrack is a familiar eclectic mix of J-Pop and Electronica, and is perfectly suited to the gameplay’s frequent changes in tempo.

            Aiming for that sweet spot between tradition and new markets, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll is perhaps the best attempt at adapting the formula yet. Though it may be too gentle for the most fervent fans and eventually too challenging for newcomers, Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll won’t offend either camp, and for that is possibly the best Wii gamers could hope for. Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll is a very well designed game and will undoubtedly become one of SEGA’s best selling Wii releases in 2010; it just seems somewhat of a shame that the audience buying it will be so very different from those who made the series a commercial success in the first place.Electronic Theatre Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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