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November 8, 2005
Super Monkey Ball Deluxe - Review
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Look.. It's a monkey, in a ball!
There’s something about simple yet stupid things that appeals to me on an inner level. Barely a day goes by when someone will ask me a question and I’ll respond with ‘Pants’ or ‘Pie’ or something equally pointless. Which I think is why monkeys in videogames fascinate me... they’re typically seen as these boggly-eyed critters that have so much life in them, that just do stupid things which a monkey would never even dream of. Ape Escape had the great idea of brainwashing monkeys, and having them packing Uzis and doing all strange manners of things. And then along came Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which had the ingenious idea of sticking a monkey in a transparent sphere and rolling it around a level like a rat in a maze! Genious!

Super Monkey Ball Deluxe is the spherical monkeys’ first adventure on a Sony console, having already received welcome attention on the Gamecube and more recently Xbox. How has it fared? Read on, before the RSPCA pulls this review for my promoting of monkeys trapped in spheres...

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Selecting the mini-golf.
The story in SMBDX goes a little something like this; The evil Dr Bad-Boon has stolen all of the bananas from Jungle island, and you play as Aiai the monkey and friends have to get them all back. Yes, it’s cheesy and corny, but the story isn’t what this game’s about; the story just lets you unlock more levels, characters and minigames for the multiplayer mode, which is where this game gets really fun. The story progresses by way of FMV cutscenes spliced between a series of ‘levels’, which by the way have absolutely nothing to do with the story whatsoever.

The single player game of SMBDX simple in concept; move your monkey from the start of the level through the finishing gate before your time is up. Think of it as an inhumane version of Marble Madness (for those dinosaurs out there that remember life in ancient times); if your monkey falls off the edge of the level, you have to start again, hopefully without repeating the same mistake. While early levels start off basic with simple paths to follow, later levels become quite complex with obstacles such as moving barriers, escalators and variable gravity, with alternate finishes and switches that change the behaviour of certain parts of the level. Bananas are scattered around the levels too, which will add to your total score at the completion of a level, and banana bunches (worth 10 bananas each) can often be found on the edge of precarious ledges and platforms for the overachievers.

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Racing 3 CPU controlled monkeys.
This game style is also used in the multiplayer mode with up to four players consecutively, however you can’t ‘bump’ other players off as you might expect (which is actually a good thing given some of the levels); they instead appear as ‘ghosts’. The other multiplayer mode consists of a dozen party games which will have you performing whacky games from target shooting and billiards to monkeyball boxing (again with the monkey violence!). Each of these games is so well presented with its own options and rule sets which make the dozen of them almost worthy of being sold separate to the single player mode.

For the style of game that it is, SMBDX does little wrong. The single-player mode has enough levels to keep you happy till the cows come home, and is structured such that you’ll always want that ‘one more go’ just to improve on your previous best time. It’s just a shame that the load times aren’t as quick as they possibly could be. In single player it isn’t really an issue, given that more often than not you’ll be repeating a single level repeatedly. In multiplayer though, where levels are only run once each, the wait can get on your nerves before too long.

Sadly SMBDX looks a little dull and dreary, especially when compared to its Xbox and Gamecube counterparts. While the levels are intentionally simple, some of the texturing is pretty pale and isn’t very appealing. Some 3d objects too are shown as 2d sprites within 3d environments; as such anti-aliasing edges on these objects looks pretty repulsive, and remnant of what the N64 used to look like... pull your socks up Sega! On the whole though, the graphics are acceptable with very rare frame rate drops, and the added 60Hz mode is much appreciated.

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One of the 300 levels.
As with the visuals, the sound seems to have been left a little short of the mark in SMBDX. Most of the effects are cheap and cheesy, as though they’ve been ripped straight from a Megadrive or SNES game. Yes it does suit the game, but at the same time it just feels a little empty and half-finished. The sounds of rolling Monkeyballs seems to have been toned down and deadened compared to the Gamecube versions, which is a shame because it was always a good indication of the speed you were traveling at, as well as sounding ‘meatier’ than the ‘stealth’ Monkeyballs present in the PS2 version.

If you have friends, and can’t remember the last decent multiplayer game was you spent all crowded around the TV, grab a multi-tap and buy this game! This is what gaming used to be like; simple enough that anyone can pick up a controller and enjoy themselves, and 4 people can have a go simultaneously without having to worry about crossover cable networking or intertrons or any other technojargon. Granted it doesn’t have the best graphics, and the load times can get a little picky at times, but I challenge you... Grab a bunch of mates, a copy of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, a multitap (and a carton of beer if you’re old enough), and try to not have fun.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSI didn’t appreciate using the word ‘N64’ in the graphics review.
SOUNDCheesy tunes and effects… you’ll either love or hate them.
GAMEPLAYEasy to pick up, but addictive as hell and hard to put down.
VALUEIf you’ve got friends, this game will pay for itself many times over.
OVERALLMonkeys + Balls = Monkeyballs! That’s all there is to it! It’s simple, addictive, and another good reason why you need to invest in a multitap and a bunch of friends. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe doesn’t show off the PS2’s technical prowess, but will without a doubt put a grin on your face.

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