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Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll review

A game of simian mobile disco balls

Considering Super Monkey Ball was, really, a bit of a gimmick when it first appeared on the GameCube nearly eight years ago, Sega's done a remarkable job of keeping the series alive. There have been a couple of lowlights along the way - Super Monkey Ball Adventure's ham-fisted crack at free-rolling adventure coming to mind - but when the monkeys have stayed within their balls and rolled around tilting platforms, it's generally been a reliably fun franchise.

In case you've no idea why monkeys are being trapped in balls and rolled around tabletops, it's okay. You've nothing to be horrified about. Toshihiro Nagoshi simply thought it would be a good idea to recreate Marble Madness by putting pretend monkeys in pretend balls and having them roll around boards within a time limit, collecting bananas.

Click to view larger image
A generous 100 stages make up Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll, split into ten worlds, all of which can be attacked using the Balance Board. Monkey Ball isn't the first game to attempt to fuse marbles and the Balance Board (not real life marbles, obviously - the NHS would have be in trouble otherwise). Marbles! Balance Challenge made a decent fist of that early last year. But Monkey Ball is certainly the sparkier version, especially when you throw in the mini-games.

Immediately you'll find that controlling the game using the Balance Board requires a great deal of patience thanks to its touchy sensitivity. Even in the first world, where the initial batch of stages are straightforward enough, you'll find yourself helplessly rolling off into oblivion after leaning fractionally too much to one side. Forward momentum snowballs rapidly too, and for those trying out the Monkey Ball series for the first time, sustained frustration could be just around the corner.

Twitch Gaming

The Balance Board just doesn't offer the precision needed to get round some of the murderous courses found even a little way into the game. The difficulty spike is close to vertical, so much so that it feels as though the game isn't giving you time to get used to controlling AiAi the monkey with your feet. The danger could have been that the Balance Board turned each monkey ball into a shopping trolley with rusty wheels, but instead it seems to have gone the other way. It's more like piloting a McLaren round your back garden, it being too eager to arrow into turns and putting the fence out.

As well as that, there's also the stomach churning spectacle of seeing the camera lurch about after your Monkey Ball, which has the effect of making your movements on the board feel more exaggerated. Best not play this after meal times then.

Click to view larger image

Feet Loose

None of this is to say it's a bad game, because it's not. It needs pointing out that while uncomplicated, getting used to being especially nimble on your feet does take getting used to. Thankfully for those with a short fuse, you can use the Wii Remote, tilting it this way and that to roll around. A clever touch is that of the obstacles added to each course - bumpers and the like which must be navigated. It levels things up a bit between Board and Remote users.

The Remote can also be used as a helping hand to another player in Co-op mode, where you smash obstacles out of the way of your partner's rolling ball with a flick of the wrist.

Another concession to the tricky controls is the way you collect bananas. Some courses require you to collect every last one to progress, but you're bound to roll off the course so you're able to head back and aim for the bananas you've not yet collected - all the others are banked.

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Comments

17 comments so far...
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  1. toffeeman30 Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 13:40

    looks like i will be sticking with my gamecube version of the game then. prequels to the gamecube game havent ever been bettered yet

  2. Andy88 Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 13:43

    From the screenshots the visuals look more basic than the original Monkey Ball game from 2002. Why do developers keep doing this??:x

  3. Cunzy1 1 Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 14:42

    I'm sad there wasn't more love for the GC SMB :(

    Also, this is the problem of running a mag with a website is that you keep your good stuff for the mag and eeek the crap stuff out over a month for the site.

  4. sega Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 16:12

    is it just me, or onm just hate sega :S

  5. noodle link Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 16:37

    is it just me, or onm just hate sega :S


    No, it's just an obviously crappy game.

  6. ibarnaby64 Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 17:07

    is it just me, or onm just hate sega :S


    No, it's just an obviously crappy game.

    No, it's obviously not. So STFU.

  7. Cunzy1 1 Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 17:10

    is it just me, or onm just hate sega :S


    No, it's just an obviously crappy game.

    No, it's obviously not. So STFU.

    ....and PYSU.

  8. Nintendo Boy Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 20:33

    I think i'll stick with Banana Blitz, Thankyou very much. >_>

  9. Chocolate king Wednesday 10th Feb 2010 at 21:42

    Lol I laughed so hard when Chris said I hope AiAi dies in a fire on the podcast :lol:

  10. King Slazo Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 12:38

    I remember when Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 came out and it ranked as one of my all time favourite franchises...

    I've lost all faith of ever seeing another good SMB since then mind. Deluxe was crippled by load times, Adventure missed the point, Jr and T&R did alright but were let down by no analogue control, and the Wii versions ruined the art style and brilliant level design.

    You want to see the direction Monkey Ball could have gone in? Play Marble Blast Ultra.

    Put simply, all I want is another classic Monkey Ball game, with online leaderboards / ghosts so you can see the best runs or how your friends did the level. That can't be that hard Sega...

  11. mike69 Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 16:38

    is it just me, or onm just hate sega :S


    No, it's just an obviously crappy game.

    No, it's obviously not. So STFU.

    ....and PYSU.

    WTF?????

  12. sega Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 18:19

    when i said that i meant like they dont just hate this game, they hate all the games they make,

    sonic and the black knight in the 70% same with unleased and phantasy star zero, even samba de amigo, not forgetting knights, all in the 70%

    they said that samba de amigo had bad controls, i have had no problems with the controls, using wii remote and numchuck, i have gotten perfect on super hard with all songs, and i have not yet seen an control issue.

    i am not going to start complain about other games since you will all dissagree, i am just trying to say that onm just go to hard on reviewing sega games

  13. sega Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 18:19

    when i said that i meant like they dont just hate this game, they hate all the games they make,

    sonic and the black knight in the 70% same with unleased and phantasy star zero, even samba de amigo, not forgetting knights, all in the 70%

    they said that samba de amigo had bad controls, i have had no problems with the controls, using wii remote and numchuck, i have gotten perfect on super hard with all songs, and i have not yet seen an control issue.

    i am not going to start complain about other games since you will all dissagree, i am just trying to say that onm just go to hard on reviewing sega games

  14. thrakk Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 21:33

    If the Wii Balance Board is too sensitive, is it possible to play the game using a heavier person's wii balance board settings to counteract the game's sensitivity?

  15. Tailsdreggman Thursday 11th Feb 2010 at 21:36

    Sign 1 of a rant-losing the ability to spell
    example: see above :D
    To sega, i'm not having a go. You have a point. But the whole idea of a review is it's someone's opinion of the object in question. OPINION. THEIRS. NOT YOURS. you can't have a go if YOU think they go it wrong.
    also, a hint. When ranting, use small words.

  16. ChrisONM Wednesday 17th Feb 2010 at 14:16

    when i said that i meant like they dont just hate this game, they hate all the games they make,

    sonic and the black knight in the 70% same with unleased and phantasy star zero, even samba de amigo, not forgetting knights, all in the 70%


    Mate, have you seen other magazines' scores for Black Knight?

    http://www.metacritic.com/games/platfor ... lackknight

    If anything our 78% was generous! :D

    It's not a case of us being biased for Nintendo and against Sega, it's just that at this moment in time Nintendo's games tend to be of a higher quality than Sega's. It's a very different company from the days of the Mega Drive and Dreamcast.

    It's also worth remember that when Sega do release good games, we acknowledge them as such. Mario & Sonic and Sonic Chronicles are examples of this.

  17. MARION64WII Sunday 21st Feb 2010 at 00:20

    when i said that i meant like they dont just hate this game, they hate all the games they make,

    sonic and the black knight in the 70% same with unleased and phantasy star zero, even samba de amigo, not forgetting knights, all in the 70%


    Mate, have you seen other magazines' scores for Black Knight?

    http://www.metacritic.com/games/platfor ... lackknight

    If anything our 78% was generous! :D

    It's not a case of us being biased for Nintendo and against Sega, it's just that at this moment in time Nintendo's games tend to be of a higher quality than Sega's. It's a very different company from the days of the Mega Drive and Dreamcast.

    It's also worth remember that when Sega do release good games, we acknowledge them as such. Mario & Sonic and Sonic Chronicles are examples of this.

    Chris you made a good point, sega's games arent quite as good as they used to be, if anyone has noticed, sega's megadrive games mostly score over %80

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