#457 Super Monkey Ball

Posted: 13th May 2019 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

783rd played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Amusement Vision
Publisher: Sega

Anyone who knows us is probably not surprised that as I write this, we’re going through a fairly major monkey phase. There’s a monkey pillow, some small decorations and quite a few in joke references that I won’t explain. As Peter owned Super Monkey Ball anyway, he was quite excited to see me play it – it has been a long time for him – in part as this is the stereotypial monkey look.

What I know is that it’s not Ape Escape, but it obviously has a related protagonist and some other monkey business. Next is the question, what is it really then?

Our Thoughts

When you look at Super Monkey Ball, the first comparison that comes to mind is those puzzle games you sometimes get as promotional item, where there are small iron balls that you have to guide through a maze, through some holes or similar and get them to rest at an endpoint. They’ve been turned into bigger games too, but here you’re doing it digitally with everything that implies. You basically tilt the stage, the monkeys roll ahead and they can’t fall off, and you continue. Think of it as Mercury Meltdown with a cuter skin and larger feeling levels that really focus on you not falling off. Completing levels gets you points to unlock minigames, while you also race through levels to get to the end. The easy mode is best for that – 10 levels where the last one is near impossible (only with Peter’s many times of training did I see an end to it) but that ramps up difficulty nicely and gives you a good idea of what the game is up to. Higher difficulties run for more levels, but start off devilishly difficult from the start. They are great puzzles to solve, but I really did struggle to get deeper in.

The minigames are weird variations on this – the ones I played didn’t necessarily play a lot with the rolling concept, but instead had our monkeys flying in one, and become a less controllable bowling ball in another. They’re quite fun diversions, with an unlock mechanic that forces you to play the main game – I’m not sure whether that’s good to get you to experience that, or is something that gets in your way to find a diversion – but in the end they’re not substantial enough to have a big influence on the game.

The graphics and setting, though, ooze charm, and the fact that you’re controlling a moneky in a ball rather than just a sphere elevate the game beyond its inspiration. There’s something really fun about the setting and ideas and it wouldn’t be the same eabout that. Not just that, but it adds a few other influences – mostly in the form of bananas and related references – that inform the full aesthetics. They’re Gamecube focused, but nice in there nonetheless.

Final Thoughts

Super Monkey Ball is a good puzzle game that ramps up quite well, getting challenging at the right spots (although I wish the final level of the easiest difficulty would have been a bit easier, so I could have finished that without being bothered by that spike) where the earlier, easier levels are fun enough to be replayable while also being easy enough to finish that you can get back to the levels that bother you. It might have been better if the continues are always unlimited, but I hope that unlock is within reach for me.