Hey, hey, we’re the monkeys!
I’m totally convinced that working for a Japanese video game company is one of
the best jobs in the world. In what other job can you capitalize on cockamamie
ideas born from a long night of drunken debauchery (uh… besides Game Revolution)?
Some of the weirdest
video games on the planet have come from the land of the rising sun, and while
not all of them successfully make it across the Pacific, a few of them do.
So when you dream of a hit game, what do you think of? A counter-terrorism
action romp? A violent
free-for-all in a huge, corrupted city? What if someone said that they wanted
to make a party game with cute mini-monkeys in giant hamster balls? I bet you’d
tell them they’ve been eating too many “special” bananas, right?
Well, those monkeys are about to be unleashed on American GameCubes thanks
to Amusement Vision, Sega, and an absolutely insane idea. It sounds like a game
doomed from the start, but ultimately turns out to be a stroke of genius.
Super Monkey Ball is an action party game that takes a family of four
monkeys in hamster balls on a wild ride through mazes, billiards tables, golf
courses, and more. The main game plays much in the same way as the classic game
The monkey you choose is essentially a marble placed into a gigantic maze. You
control the “ground” and try to tilt the monkey all the way to the goal before
he falls off the edge of the world. It’s easy in theory, but pretty tough to
execute. Three levels of difficulty offer from 10 to 50 mazes, which can be
played both in single and multiplayer modes.
Perform well in these challenges and you’ll be rewarded with player points
that can be used to unlock three mini-games: Monkey Billiards, Monkey Bowling,
and Monkey Golf. Monkey Billiards is a simple game of 9-ball played on a giant
table with – you guessed it – a bunch of monkeys inside billiards balls. Monkey
Bowling has your monkey running head first down a polished lane, trying to take
out those elusive ten pins. Both power and spin can be implemented, making this
one a decent little video bowling sim. Lastly there is Monkey Golf, a simple
little mini-golf game that requires you to putt your monkey home.
Although I’m extremely happy that these mini games are included, they’re a
little dry. Monkey Billiards seems incomplete without a basic 8-ball game, Monkey
Bowling is just plain repetitive, and Monkey Golf is mini-golf without all of
the wacky castles and structures. The concept is there, but execution is not.
These little mini-games are a nice distraction, but the game really shines
with three very cool party games. The first is Monkey Fight, where you and up
to three other monkeys are outfitted with giant boxing gloves with plans to
pummel each other off of the platform. Next is Money Race, which plays exactly
like a standard kart racer with plenty of power-ups. Things get very fast and
wily and, admittedly, fun.
there’s my personal favorite, Monkey Target. And what is Monkey Target? Well,
the short story is that you launch your monkey off a large platform, pop open
the glider ball, and try to land on floating targets while avoiding any unpleasantries
that you may have picked up from the Wheel of Death, such as bombs or spikes.
Of all the multiplayer games, this one has gotten the most play in the GR office.
Seeing how your monkeys tend to roll around a lot (they are in a ball after
all), physics play an important role. In a great twist, Super Monkey Ball
nails the physics model perfectly. The monkey ball rolls exactly the way it
would if you actually put a real monkey in a giant hamster ball! (Note: no live
monkeys were harmed in this test, except that one, and he had it coming to him).
The developers did a very good job here.
Combine that with bright, colorful graphics and some happy (if somewhat grating)
monkey tunes and you’ve got a pretty fun little party game for all ages.
While Monkey Ball‘s single player game is better than most party games,
it still doesn’t have a very long shelf life. Most players’ desire to conquer
the single player game will probably flag after gaining enough points to unlock
all of the mini-games. Then, it’s just a matter of searching out more people
to play with. It is a party game after all…
So if you’ve got a few monkeys hanging around your tree, be sure to check out
Super Monkey Ball. It’s everything a party game should be, and it sure
beats jumping on the bed.