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Sept. 29, 2006
Super Monkey Ball Adventure - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/7/2006THQTraveller's Tales1-4PGMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
140KBDolby PLIIYesNoMediumYes

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Are you talking to me!?
Super Monkey Ball is a name that will bring on many memories of both joy and frustration to many gamers. The two games, originally released on Gamecube then combined into a single (and fairly badly ported) multi-platform release by the name of Super Monkey Ball DX, were focused on a series of puzzles that were not really connected in any way. The challenge was for players to tilt the level in order to get a monkey in a ball through a goal. Asimple formula, with equally simple graphics, didn’t seem like a recipe for success but ended up being one of the most enjoyable and challenging creations seen yet this generation.

Now, with Amusement Vision handing the series over to Traveller’s Tales (those people behind some of the later Crash Bandicoot games and the amazing Lego Star Wars series), the game has, for the first time, moved into connected levels, over world’s and a plot-driven nature.

Like the previous title, the story is nothing special and is fairly typical of what we would expect of the series. Aiai and his friends have been commissioned by the king to investigate the rapid decay of the world’s ‘joy’ as well as the disappearance of the prince and princess of opposing kingdoms. As it turns out, the two royalties have met each other and decided they want to marry. This is, of course, causing all sorts of problems, so Aiai and co. set out to return joy to Monearth’s five kingdoms.

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Getting some air!
The first thing that players are likely to find out is that despite many changes, Super Monkey Ball Adventure definitely feels like it was still in Amusement Vision’s hands. That is to say that it doesn’t feel butchered, at least not in controlling the monkey ball. Basic controls require only manipulating the left joystick, while the right controls the camera. There is also a spell system implemented, using different 3-part chants, which can eventually allow your monkey to hover, float, burn, and so on. These are all essential to finishing the many plat-forming puzzles that players will be presented with.

The free-roaming nature of the game means that you can pick when to do each mission, or simply roll around collecting bananas. These bananas are used to unlock characters, modes and levels for the 6 included multiplayer mini-games which, unlike DX, support third-party multi-taps as well as Sony brand ones, allowing up to 4 players to play the various games. Of the 6 party games, 3 are old favorites and 3 are new, though these new games are fairly uninspiring, but will offer some fun.

While the game has many enjoyable moments, to say it was without a whole host of problems would be a downright lie. There are some fairly big 50Hz borders for the PAL release, with no 60Hz mode available. These borders are really quite bad, with colour alterations occurring just inside of the black border. On top of this, the plot, as already mentioned, is fairly basic and unrewarding – the ending of the game is a particular letdown. However, the biggest issue in Super Monkey Ball Adventure is the game repetitive and frustrating nature.

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Just rolling around.
While previous titles have rarely been frustrating enough to force a break in play, Adventure is full of moments where you simply want to turn off the game. Unfortunately, it is not always obvious how certain puzzles must be completed, and this can result in hours of confusion, re-attempting a task you simply cannot complete without a new chant, while others are just incredibly long even when you do have the right chant. This frustration is furthered by the fact that, while many of the missions are based on a trial-and-error system, there is no way to quickly retry a mission, meaning there is far too much back-tracking involved to get back to the character who initiates the mission.

Another huge annoyance is the way that levels are split up. Early in the game there are several ‘turnkeys’ which separate area’s in the first two kingdoms. These wouldn’t be an issue except that you have to turn each one ten times in order to open the next door. And this has to be done every time you wish to enter or exit an area. It’s a clever way of masking a load-screen, but it is incredibly annoying as it takes the better part of a few minutes each time. Later on, these keys simply become lifts, transport vessels and other such things. This is still annoying and long, but at least you can take a break and get a drink or something during these sequences.

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Ohh wings - to fly!
It also many times seems like the levels were designed for a normal plat-forming game, more along the lines of Crash Bandicoot or Ratchet and Clank, making rolling up steps for instance particularly annoying. Overall, there are some very well designed areas, and some horrible areas. Some parts of the game just don’t seem like they were meant for a ball.

Finally, we also found our copy of the game freezing up on no less than 5 occasions. This was fairly unforgivable as they almost always happened in the middle of huge plat-forming sections, and the games checkpoint and auto-save system is fairly unforgivable. When you are, after an hour or so of trying to do a certain puzzle, finally about to complete it, and the game freezes, it does leave a somewhat foul impression on you.

The departure from the traditional Monkey Ball games has also forced a departure from the traditional graphics style, and while Super Monkey Ball Adventure looks nice enough and keeps a bright palette without dropping frame-rate too often, it just doesn’t have the same character the other releases do. Having said that, the game’s look does suit it, and definitely isn’t the worst looking game out. The old art-style is, of course, still existent in the 50 puzzles (woven into the story as parts of ‘keys’ to doors) where the game reverts back to its origins perfectly in every possible way.

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More adequate graphics.
Like Super Monkey Ball 2 and DX, voices are once again done using only syllables from the work ‘monkey’ which, after a few hours, gets incredibly annoying and having to read the subtitles really takes away from watching cut scenes, even if these aren’t anything particularly interesting. However, sound effects are carried over from the previous titles quite well so it’s worth putting up with it. The in-game music is also quite fitting and nice, though the final level you will barely hear it as there is far too much noise going on (unfortunately it is plot related, and so much remain). So the game isn’t an assault on the ears, but it’s not particularly aurally amazing either.

Basically, Super Monkey Ball Adventure starts out well and good, but before long; the frustrating aspects of the game can quickly outweigh the enjoyable side to it. To say it was a bad game would be doing it a great injustice, but the game is by no means going to be a favorite of everyone’s. Fans of the previous Monkey Ball titles in particular may have trouble adapting to this style of play, while newcomers may enjoy it immensely. Our suggestion: hire it first before you go spending your hard-earned money on what may cause you to tear out your remaining hair.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSOnce again not amazing, but the game loses much of its characteristic art-style this time around. Puzzles still look great.
SOUNDSound effects: nicely recycled. Voice-acting: still horribly annoying.
GAMEPLAYVaries from enjoyable to hatefully frustrating. Fairly inconsistent.
VALUEA decent length. A few good mini-games. Not bad.
OVERALLIt’s hard to say no to a Monkey Ball game… but this one just isn’t what it should have been. Nice idea and some good moments, but mostly unrewarding.

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