Reviewed: September 19, 2006
Released: August 1, 2006
The Super Monkey Ball series is back and bigger than before. This time, though, itís a little too big. The same gangóAiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGonóare all back for a new adventure. But the team is taking a slight detour from the vast array of puzzles available in prior installments. An attempt to turn a strong puzzle into more of an adventure platformer went wrong with developer Travellerís Tales. Some games should be left the way they have been.
Super Monkey Ball Adventure has the following features:
The story starts with the gang around a barbecue. Flying across the sky are two monkeys in a glider. Suddenly the bells on Monkey Island start ringing, signaling that something is terribly wrong. So you begin your journey to the castle to see what is wrong. You soon learn that two rivaling islands are ready to wage war on each other. Why? Their respective prince and princess ran on to be with each other. Think Romeo and Juliet acted out by monkeys. The plot is simplistic enough, but all the additions to the story, such as the many quests, tend to take away from it all.
The story mode contains five areas: Jungle Island, Moonhaven, Monkitropolis, Zootopia, and Kongri-la. Each one is vast but possibly a little too big at times. There are quests scattered about the areas. The monkey radar can help you locate which quests you still need to complete, but it wonít help you with bananas. The bananas are located everywhere. From the islands to the puzzle levels, youíll find single bananas hiding all over. Many are fairly easy to get. But some become absolutely frustrating. You may need a particular type of monkey ball to get one, but remembering where a lone banana is on a large island is not likely to be your top priority.
As for the puzzle levels, they are clumped together in small groups across the islands. You complete them to unlock a door so that you can continue. They start off simple enough, and you donít have to worry about how many lives you have, since you donít have any in story mode. However, as you progress, the puzzles get harder, as you would expect them, too. But it isnít necessarily always because of the level itself. Sometimes the camera keeps swinging itself into the most awkward positions so that you canít see anything.
The new monkey ball powers are a nice addition to the game. You can turn into wood, thus enabling you to float on water and catch on fire. Some powers let you become invisible and slightly hover. Hovering is basically the only alternative to jumping in the game. There is also a power that makes a slightly sticky, and it is ever so slight. Although they are a nice idea, they arenít incorporated into the puzzle levels, which would have put a new twist on things. But nevertheless, itís an idea that can be built upon in future releases.
Party games still contain some classics, such as Monkey Race, Monkey Target, and Monkey Fight. For newcomers, Monkey Race is simply a race with items that you can use against your opponents. In Monkey Target, you launch your ball off of a ramp over an ocean and try to land on a target to acquire the most points. Monkey Fight, arguably the most fun classic, has you beating up on your friends with a giant boxing glove that is attached to your ball via a spring. You can get items to make your glove bigger or your spring longer, giving yourself an edge over other people.
New additions to party games include Monkey Bounce, Monkey Tag, and Monkey Cannon. Monkey Bounce is similar to Othello. You try to make as many squares your color as you can by bouncing around and landing on them. The biggest difference from Othello, though, is that everyone is playing at once instead of taking turns.
There are also items that do different things, such as freezing everyone in place. Monkey Tag has you around a sphere trying to collect the most balloons within a certain time. Youíll have to fight off the other monkeys by using the items on the stage. The last, Monkey Cannon, turns your ball into a cannonball. Each player has a castle with a flag. The goal is to shoot your ball at each otherís castles to knock off bricks, which will eventually bring the flag down. The winner is necessarily the last person standing; itís more focused on how many bricks you caused to be knocked out.
The new games donít add much in terms of gameplay. Monkey Tag might possibly have you and your friends battling for a bit, but not like Monkey Fight.
The last mode is Challenge Mode, where youíll get to take on the puzzle levels one after another. You do have lives in this mode. Itís similar to former Super Monkey Ball games. With the obstructive camera, the harder levels will drive you nuts. Fortunately, there are continues once you lose all of your lives.
The graphics fit the standard Super Monkey Ball design. A lot of green, blue, red, and brown layer the screen. However, this latest version seems a tad duller compared to former versions. The puzzle levels still mimic those of Super Monkey Ball 1 & 2, but are graphically lacking the crisp appeal that 1 & 2 had. One difference that is noticeable is that GonGon looks a little funny. He used to be the monkey that was pretty built, but now he looks as though heís been on a diet or something.
The biggest complaint in this version is one that has been an issue for Super Monkey Ball in its former releases: the camera. It is really frustrating when a platform blocks your view, causing you to tumble out of the stage. Youíd think this issue would have been solved after three games, but it still poses a problem for many levels.
Gamers that have played former Super Monkey Ball games will likely recognize some of the music in Super Monkey Ball Adventure. The puzzle levels have kept the themes from former releases, which is somewhat disappointing. I was hoping to hear some new themes to go with the new puzzles. The varying lands in story mode have some new songs that you may enjoy. But since youíll be spending hours on a particular island, you might get sick of the loop eventually.
As for the sound effects: slightly comical with quick progression into annoyance. The monkey talk sounds a little humorous at first. The squeaky gibberish that the monkeys speak in is bearable for maybe the first ten minutes you hear it. Their entire language sounds to be comprised of four of five sounds mixed and matched together to produce a small amount of words. You can only take a high-pitched ďOokie Mookie MookakaĒ for so long.
Merely completing story mode will take you some time. If youíre used to the controls of the Super Monkey Ball franchise, you could possibly finish the story mode in a night or two. As for completing all of story mode, well, that could take you twice as long or even longer. There are hundreds of bananas scattered all over the islands. If you happen to miss one somewhere, itís a real pain trying to find out where it is. Youíll more likely get tired of searching and just decide that you donít care anymore.
There are also dozens of side quests that you can complete. However, they donít add much to the game in terms of value, because they are just tedious little chores. Most of them only take about a minute or so to complete. So they donít add enough excitement to the story mode to make you really want to go back and complete them.
If youíre a fan of the typical puzzle levels of Super Monkey Ball, then youíll enjoy playing through the challenge mode. Although there arenít nearly as many levels as a typical Super Monkey Ball, the levels in Super Monkey Ball Adventure are still creative and fun.
The party games possibly add some of the most replay value. The party games can keep you and your friends going at it for hours. The only problem is you have to get a ton of bananas to unlock all of them. So spending the many hours in story mode to unlock everything in the party games might be too much for some to handle.
The retail price for Super Monkey Ball Adventure rolls in at $39.99. But you wonít be going bananas over this title. Travellerís Tales should have left Super Monkey Ball as a puzzle game, instead of trying to turn it into an adventure platformer. Fortunately, the puzzle levels that still remain in the game are still fun. The party games are also as addictive as ever. Itís a shame, though, that you have to agonize yourself with such a mundane story mode to get everything else. You could very easily become bored with the game before getting the fun stuff unlocked.