Super Monkey Ball Adventure
Update: More late arrival E3 impressions.
Preview by (Email)
June 2nd 2006
Before knowing if Super Monkey Ball Adventure is the right game for you, you have to answer one simple question: just how much cuteness can you stand?
I know the series has always been about adorable little monkeys in shiny balls with heart designs on their butts, but SMBA is a world full of characters waiting to be turned into plush toys, occupying a bight and cheerful jungle isle on the Gamecube, which didn't look out of place even standing next to the next generation Sonic. So if you're a jock type in the desperate need of keeping up your macho image, don't let anyone catch you playing it. Glad I'm not a jock.
The gameplay is similar and at the same time very different from the previous SMB titles. Instead of tilting around the world, you move the monkey in the ball directly, but you still need to worry about issues like quick turning and inertia. The world is designed to cater to this with long sweeping curves that turns traditional platformer mechanics into a rollercoaster ride. Though it's not all rolling and jumping as chanting grants you various powers drawn from the mini-games, such as gliding to reach the distant island. They'll also be various tasks to put these tricks to use. For example, I met a distressed older monkey dressed for a formal night out, who explained (in monkey speak with English subtitles) that his daughter normally liked to sleep in his top hat, but she's missing, and must have fallen asleep in someone else's hat. To find her, I had to roll around in my ball to smack into various monkeys to tip their hats off their heads, though if I rolled too fast it would only squash them flat, hat and all.
Even with a robust single player adventure, mulitplayer hasn't been forgotten with the return of the best Monkey Ball party games, along with three all new modes. Castle is the one where I spend most of my time with. It's where you and three other monkeys build up your own fort with various spiky defenses, and then load yourself into a cannon to fire at the other castles, smacking them repeatedly to knock their blocks into the sea with the hope that yours will be the last one standing. Like every great mini-game, it was short and sweet, forcing you to act quickly to plan your defense, and then keep track of the various towers, striking in the sweet spot to achieve the most damage.
I know fans of the original Monkey Ball games were hesitant to see it transformed into a more traditional platformer, but personally I found mixing Sonic style worlds with monkey mechanics really puts a new spin on the genre, even if it does exceeds the maximum recommended dose of cuteness.
··· Aaron Drewniak