Still monkeying around.
It started out as a nice, normal afternoon. The sun was shining, a ton of meat was on the grill and the six-packs were chilling comfortably. The ladies were soaking up the sun while the guys talked about their latest geek adventures. But before long, they came over. Them and their freaky Cinnabon ears!
After they showed up, the afternoon was pretty much shot. Like a bizarre parody of the pied piper, they lured everyone out of the sun and into the living room. It was there that they captured my friends and turned them into screaming maniacs. Even now I can still hear them babbling on in their crazy Moon language...
Indeed, the monkeys are back and they're taking over living rooms across America as Sega's Super Monkey Ball 2 makes a triumphant return to the Gamecube. Featuring a ton of new challenges and twice the number of mini-games than the original, it's obvious that Sega still throws the number one party in town.
Fans of the original won't need to waste much time becoming reacquainted with the sequel, since it handles largely the same. The single-player game is basically a game of "Labyrinth," with the monkey ball acting as a marble that you have to guide through an obstacle course. The only difference this time is that there is a Story mode to go along with the original Challenge mode.
Using the same "courses" as Challenge mode, Super Monkey Ball 2's Story mode throws players a loop by injecting a crazy tale, bordering on downright zany and at times even approaching hardcore wacky. Apparently, the evil Dr. Bad-Boon (a freaky psycho monkey) has a thing for MeeMee (the girl monkey) even though she already has AiAi (one of the other monkeys) for a boyfriend. And like your average villain, this unrequited love has driven Dr. Bad-Boon to do the unthinkable - stealing all the bananas in the land! So naturally, our color-coded monkey heroes are out to spank the wicked monkey evildoer by completing various obstacle courses.
I don't get it, either. Honestly, I'm not sure whether to yell "Go, Go, Monkey Rangers!" or just smack my forehead and hope that the writers weren't killed by the drugs they were taking. At least you'll only have to play the single player long enough to unlock all of the party games.
Staying true to the original format, Super Monkey Ball 2 shines best and brightest with its assortment of mini games. The collection has been doubled this time around, making the monkeys a sure hit for any party.
The original six games - Monkey Race, Fight, Target, Bowling, Golf and Billiards - all make a return with a few adjustments, some good, some not. Race, Fight and Golf remain largely the same with new courses or areas, but the others have more significant changes. I'm happy to say Billiards has added on Japanese 9 ball, Rotation and 8 ball modes to the original U.S. 9 ball, making for a larger choice of pool games. Bowling has also added a Special mode in addition to the original, where odd-shaped lanes filled with various obstacles will challenge you. Of the original six games, Bowling easily takes the most improved player award.
Monkey Target also made a change, but it isn't for the better. This time around, players all launch at the same time, leading to mass confusion. The infamous (and extremely entertaining) "Wheel of Death" has been eliminated. Now power-ups like '2X Score' and 'Sticky Landing' are only accessible as mid-air pickups. Also, the fog, spiked balls and bombs are a thing of the past. It would have been nice to see an Original mode option similar to what's available for Bowling and Billiards, but alas, it was not to be.
The new set of six consists of Monkey Boat, Shot, Soccer, Baseball, Tennis and Dogfight. Like the original modes, this set has its ups and downs. Monkey Boat sends you and your monkey racing down white water rapids in a little kayak. It's a lot like Monkey Race, with plenty of power-ups strewn throughout the course, but trying to navigate can get really frustrating. Paddling is handled by alternating between the left and right triggers, but for some reason this simple setup just doesn't handle well. Just paddling straight is a challenge and sharp turns will drive you crazy.
Monkey Shot is a weird little light gun shooter minus the light gun. The screen progresses on a fixed rail and players have to use a targeting cursor to blast as many enemies as they can. Not a particularly thrilling game, but one that's totally different from the rest.
Monkey Soccer is a simple little soccer game played on a small field with a handful of monkeys. If you've played Virtua Striker, you basically know the drill. The only difference is that here, the shortcomings in depth and control can be easily forgiven. It's just a mini-game after all.
Monkey Baseball is a nice little surprise that provides up to two players with a pinball-esque version of America's favorite pastime. Each section of the outfield wall is labeled with a certain outcome (i.e. a single, double, triple, or out). The pitcher monkey hurls himself at the plate and the batter monkey tries to knock him into the appropriate section. A few fielder monkeys will try to catch any hit, but if they fail, the outcome stands. There are also a few ramps on the field that will send a ball over the fence for a home run. Any base running monkeys progress when forced and cannot steal or be tagged out. Though it sounds strange, Monkey Baseball is actually a pretty cool diversion for you and a friend.
Rolling right along, we come to another winner - Monkey Tennis. A perfect monkey replica of Virtua Tennis, this mode provides hours of simple and fun tennis action that anyone can enjoy.
Last and certainly not least we have Monkey Dogfight, the hands-down best mini game of the lot. Dogfight sends your monkeys to the skies with a machine gun and pineapple missiles. The object? Blast every other monkey with reckless abandon. This mode is vaguely reminiscent of Starfox multiplayer and is just as fun.
Once you invite some friends over, there's no doubt that Super Monkey Ball 2 has upheld the Gamecube's Party Game Crown. The single-player game is still merely a fair distraction, but the dozen mini-games will keep you and your friends glued to the couch for hours.