Super Monkey Ball is a game that is just plain silly. The premise (if it can be called such) is that there are a bunch of monkeys trapped in large transparent balls. The only logical conclusion of this, of course, is that the ball-trapped monkeys must play lots of fun and silly games, all while still inside the ball.
The "main" game involves speeding the monkeyballs down various diabolical tracks without falling off. Some will be quick to point out the inevitable similarity to Marble Madness, but the physics and game mechanics are actually different (each floor is timed separately, falling into the abyss kills you immediately, you have lives, falling a large distance onto ground does not break the ball etc. etc. etc.) and the level designs are mostly a far cry from anything in Marble Madness. You start off with the Beginner Level, in which the floors are all nice and easy (often trivially so), move on to the Advanced Level, where the floors provide a good challenge but become doable with lots of practice, and then onto the Expert Level. Apparently, the designers for Mario's LostLevels got fired for making SMB2J too hard, and after 15 years of bitter sulking, they were hired by Sega to create the Expert mode of Super Monkey Ball. OK, maybe that's not what really happened, but I think you get the point. I generally find Advanced more fun because of the milder difficulty, but Expert gives me my daily dose of evil (and hey, I have been making slow-but-sure progress).
Outside the main game, those crazy monkeys play billiards, golf, and bowling, all of which involve many dizzy monkeys. There's also a good Mario Kart-ish racing game, "Monkey Fight", where the monkey-balls are outfitted with boxing gloves to knock the other monkeys out of an arena, and the current favorite, "Monkey Target". Monkey Target is very clever. The idea is that you have to get your Monkey to land on targets of varying point values. To do this, you send your monkey flying down a ginormous ramp, which launches it through the air. But wait, it gets even better! The ramp by itself is not enough to get you all the way to the targets, so at some point in flight, you open the ball and it turns into a hang glider. From here, you try to fly to the targets, and then close up the ball again for a crash landing.
Anyway, while not the most impressive GameCube title out there, SuperMonkeyBall is really quite a lot of fun and certainly gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
I really want to try some competitive play when we get back to Mudd... -- EvilSouthie
Competitive Mode Thoughts: Competitive mode has been played a bit, and it's fun and gets more people in on the action, but could have been a lot better. First of all, there is never collision between monkeyballs, which removes some of the appeal of having multiple monkeyballs running a track at the same time. Also, the level set-up leaves much to be desired. You can only run up to five floors per competition, and they have to each be selected manually. It probably would have worked better if they gave you an option to select how many floors you want, and then select a starting floor for a sequence, or just request a random selection of floors (perhaps limited to a selected difficulty).
Especially evil levels:
- Beginner Bonus Floor 3: Okay, it's not hard, but it still makes me seasick. I can't even tell which way I'm pointed half the time. -- EvilSouthie
- Advanced Floor 15: Simply described, its a zigzag path molded around a saddle. It's not terribly complicated. There are no moving parts. You have twice as much time as you need. But damn, until you have excellent finese and skill, this level will mop the floor with you, even if it looks like it can't. Not to mention that the exit is sideways on a small ledge when you get to it, so the first couple times you actually make it to it you'll zoom right by or bounce off.
- Advanced Floor 30: You really have to see this, but it's sort of a circular version of "Frogger". Actually, this isn't too bad if you have a good plan. It just takes a lot of lives to figure out one.
- Advanced Bonus Floor 5: (Floor 30)x2... and since this is a bonus level, it can't be loaded up in Practice Mode. actually, if you press 'right' past expert, the extra floors show up
- Expert Floor 7: Holy shit is this floor hard! First you get to manuever your ball over an incredibly skinny, pointy peak. Then you must race down a flight of narrow stairs. Then you get to go through a long checkerboard of holes. The only way to get through it is to power your way through... onto a two-inch stopping platform at the other side. At this point, the level could have ended, and already made baby bunnies cry, but no! You get to maneuver through a long, skinny twisty path. Guess how much time you have at this point? That's right... not enough. At my best I've beaten this with 3 seconds on the clock (at that involved surviving some incredibly dangerous speeds that really should have killed me). Normally I have less then one.
- Expert Floor 8: A long pathway (with large holes, of course) sloping downwards with switchbacks. This could be easy, except that you don't have enough time to actually go along the path. Instead you must fall blindly from switchback to switchback (and there are large holes exactly where you want to be landing). I find this level pretty easy, now, actually- if you go to the very far edge, then turn so that the edge is vertical on your screen, you can jump up holding directly 'up' and have the extra space to land in (bypassing the hole). This level can actually be beaten legitimately, but this is from the person that can beat Floor 7 with thirteen seconds left, so it's not for the average player. In fact, I don't even do it. I just wanted to see that it could be done. -- EvilSouthie
- Expert Floor 13: Floor? Who needs floor? There are five-ish gaps that you have to jump your ball across, one of them sideways, and what little floor you do have tends to be checkerboard. I have since discovered that the jump I thought nearly impossible is actually pretty easy if you take it slowly. I take back some of the evilness I attributed to it. Beleive it or not, you can fly past half the level if you stream straight forward at the beginning and just veer a bit right after jumping two large gaps. The sideways jump is actually unneccesary; you can get make the bigger jump at the end of the platforms if you use enough speed.
- Expert Floor 16: By far the most chaotic level, most of it is on a steep platform with gaping holes... and a monkey ball bouncing over them
- Expert Floor 21: An exercise in precision high speed control, this level requires you to race along a narrow catwalk, alternating between hugging each edge to avoid being knocked off by some moving pillars.
- Expert Floor 27: OK, whoever started the rumor that monkeyballs don't need floor must be punished...
- Expert Floor 36: The pinball bumper level of DOOM!
I find it interesting that the floors are not at all arranged in order of difficulty. On the Expert Level, Floor 7 was possibly the hardest, the last ten were among the easier, and the final floor (while facinating), was practically a joke.
- The game defaults to not autosave on the memory card. Grr!
- Lens flare at opportune times (Expert Floor 4).
- MonkeyGolf?. All the holes are supposedly Par 3, but some of them we've never made, period. The thing is that they're all technically makeable in 3 shots. The hardest ones are generally the ones with the most obvious hole-in-one potential. The only catch is that you have to get the hole in one, or you fall off.
- MonkeyTarget? (actually quite fun)
- MonkeyBowling? (anyone gotten a turkey?) gobble gobble That's not an answer I have