Super Monkey Ball 2
Better late than never, they say. Super Monkey Ball 2 gets the late review treatment and passes the test of time.
Action / Puzzle
After the surprising success of Amusement Vision's original platform tilting, banana splitting, action puzzler, it was just a matter of time before Super Monkey Ball got a much anticipated update.
Super Monkey Ball 2 burst onto the scene with plenty of enhancements over the original including new challenges, levels, and mini-games among other features to totally thrill fans of the original and help release the inner chimp in all of us.
Super Monkey Ball 1 & 2 is proof that whatever Nagoshi-san touches turns to gold. Who would've thought that such games would actually be worth their weight bananas?
When the original Super Monkey Ball was released it surprisingly became one of the sleeper hits of that particular year. Selling several hundred thousand copies, enough to warrant a sequel.
Unlike the almost non-existent storyline of the original, Super Monkey Ball 2 actually had a storyline this time around. Nothing fancy, just a story of an evil baboon scientist from the future named Dr. Bad-Boon, who happens to steal all of Monkey Island's bananas leaving it up to Aiai and friends to retrieve them.
After utilizing a magic spell, the monkeys become enclosed in their protective spheres and it's off to navigating through some wackily designed courses in hopes of meeting up with Dr. Bad-Boon eventually and replenishing the island's banana supply.
The controls are very easy to pick up since it consists of just the analog stick and one button to control the action. The controls are very responsive allowing you to make incremental movements to cause the spheres to move slowly through certain areas or make more drastic moves and cause them to hurtle down ramps at high speeds, negotiating around tight corners and hopefully avoid the fall of death before making it to the goal at the end of each level.
It's the great physics and different obtainable speeds that helps maintain the topnotch gameplay of this game. Heck, even some racing games could learn a lot from the physics of this game. They're slightly improved from the original and will have you leaning out of your chair while trying make those monkey balls round those tight corners.
The overall gameplay and presentation of Super Monkey Ball 2 was in a word, atmospheric. The action takes place on floating platforms that span across 150 new levels with a total of 12 mini games this time around, half of which are brand new and the other half are updated versions of their predecessors.
The gameplay is simple in concept, you help maneuver monkeys enclosed in protective spheres to the goals at the end of each maze-like stage. By tilting the boards you influence the directions the monkey enclosed balls roll towards. Simple concept.
Super Monkey Ball 2 not only continues the highly addictive puzzle based gameplay of the original but also outdoes it in a variety of ways. This time around there are more multiplayer gaming modes for you and your friends to party with as well as a brand spanking new Story Mode and Challenge Mode among others.
At the start of the game you can select between the story mode which of course is the main portion of the game or the party mode which contains the 12 mini-games you can unlock while playing the game. There's also a practice mode so you can spend time honing those monkey balling skills enough to effectively tackle the main obstacle courses.
Similar to the original, The World or Completion modes of Super Monkey Ball 2's story mode lets you decide on which of the following levels you'd like to play next. You'll also be rewarded for completing the Completion mode without using up any continues by unlocking extra levels including the evasive Master levels.
The party mode is back, this time bigger and badder than ever. New in Super Monkey Ball 2 are 6 new party games to go alongside updates of the original six party games from the original and feature both single player and multiplayer modes.
The six party games from the original Super Monkey Ball have returned in improved form, this time containing even more depth, levels and fun play mechanics.
- Monkey Race 2 pits 8 monkey balls against each other on six tracks with the option of playing via Single Race mode, Grand Prix mode or Practice mode.
- Monkey Fight 2 pits 4 monkey balls with gloves on against each other high up on a small arena board. The rules are simple, just fight! You now have the option to power up your punch to give you that much needed edge.
- Monkey Target 2 lets you use an open sphere as a type of hang glider and fly your monkeys to the targets on the ocean. New in this update include the ability to fly more than one ball, multiplayer play and formation flying.
- Monkey Billiards 2 returns the chimps to the pool hustling world with the poor monkeys playing the role of the pool balls. New to this update are the Japanese 9-ball modes, 9-ball, Tournament Mode, Rotation, and 8-ball.
- Monkey Bowling 2 as the name implies returns the chimps to the world of bowling shoes and bowling a perfect game.
- Monkey Golf 2 puts the monkeys out on the green to tee off. Featuring both traditional and fantasy based 9 holes to tee off on, players will be golfing for hours on end and having a blast without getting sand, mud or water in their shoes.
The six new party games which are Monkey Dogfight, Monkey Shot, Monkey Tennis, Monkey Soccer, Monkey Baseball, and Monkey Boat Race, although not as hot as the updated versions of the original six party games, still have plenty of fun gameplay and depth to keep gamers partying until they can't be a partying anymore.
- Monkey Boat Race can be quite challenging, it allows the monkeys to engage in some boat racing style action by using their spheres as boats. It takes a little longer to get the hang of it compared to the the other party games. There are only three courses.
- Monkey Shot is a four player shooting game that has 3 stages to work through and should keep Virtua Cop fans quite entertained.
- Monkey Dogfight consists of air combat Monkey Ball style as they use the opened spheres as hang gliders and can shoot each other while gliding through the air with the greatest of difficulty, as the controls require a little more practice than the others.
- Monkey Soccer, as the name implies consists of the Monkey Balls navigating around a playing field trying to kick around a soccer ball to Monkey victory. Ok Ok, so it's not really called Monkey Victory, it was worth a shot (Pun intended)!
- Monkey Baseball, you guessed it, is where you hit a rolling Monkey Ball and either score a homerun or a base hit like in the actual sport. Both the pitching and batting aspects of play are very entertaining and provide more fun than most actual baseball games out there do with a learning curve that is kept short and simple.
- Monkey Tennis borrows the highly addictive gameplay formula of Virtua Tennis and sprinkles it with chimps galore four some solid four player action.
The depth and rich variety of play modes these mini-games provide should be more than enough to keep Super Monkey Ball 2 fresh for a long time, even after you complete the story mode, providing the game with replay value that hits the stratosphere and just hovers up there.
Sega could have easily provided the party games as a separate game to purchase as they make up quite an impressive and very fun collection of mini-games, some of which do deserve to have their own releases. Nagoshi loves you, oh yes he does!
The difficulty is balanced quite well with the earlier levels easy, only to serve as warm ups for the later levels that will challenge both your mind and your reflexes. Super Monkey Ball 2 has so much depth you could probably drown and never resurface.
Graphically, SMB2 is a darling sight to behold at times. The very smooth looking colors along with some of the board designs look great. The colors and textures are detailed and have a very clean and faded look at times, providing the game's visuals with a certain ambience.
The playing fields themselves are simplistic in design with no real complex shapes making up the courses. They do move in a variety of dizzying ways to keep those twitchy fingers on the control pad while trying to fight some examples of the laws of physics.
The backgrounds on the other hand are a lot more vibrant and active this time around when compared to their uneventful predecessor. Some fine animation work has into making the backgrounds come alive with active volcanoes emitting steam and flowing lava filling the background in the Lava World. Beautiful waterfalls and sea life represent some of the beauty exhibited throughout the Water world. That as well as other background attractions are done very well and can be witnessed through the glory of progressive scan.
The cinematic scenes are done in real-time and the animations overall look pretty good on both the characters and environments. Overall in comparison to the original, the graphics have definitely made a noticeable improvement, there's a lot more activity happening in the backgrounds this time around unlike the static nature of the original's backgrounds.
Although you probably won't spend anytime during your days humming the tunes of Super Monkey Ball 2, they're done well enough to not fall under the category of forgettable or bad music. Some of them sound quite nice at times, sporting some New Age styled atmospheric undertones that help set the ambient mood of some of the levels, while other tunes are of the more happier sounding variety. Overall the music fits the presentation of each of the levels quite well.
The voice acting isn't award winning quality but still pretty cute, with their little monkey voices and languages. You've even got Dr. Bad-Boon speaking with his own jive-monkey-slang. I've always loved games that made up their own languages. Think Panzer Dragoon, Rayman 2 and few others.
The only real downside to the sounds of Super Monkey Ball 2 would probably be the return of the obnoxious announcer who seems to have found his way back into the recording room of Sega's Sound Studio. When time is running out, he'll push you to hurry up, causing your anxiety levels to rise and make you want to haul off and bitchslap him.
If were a fan of the original, Super Monkey Ball 2 should provide you with most of what you would have wished for in a sequel. Each level presents a different challenge you'll need to overcome and are chock full of replay value. The 150 levels, 12 feature rich party games and multiplayer aspects say so! Both single and multiplayer modes offer enough challenge and features to provide very rich solitary gaming or an extremely fun gathering with friends.