|Title||:||Super Monkey Ball 2|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Nothing's as fun as a gigabyte of monkeys. Sega, having successfully accompanied the launch of the Nintendo GameCube with the action-puzzle game Super Monkey Ball, returns with a sequel that's sure to drive everyone ape.
Super Monkey Ball 2 challenges players to guide a monkey enclosed in a glass ball from one end of a stage to another. Bananas strewn about the course provide bonus points, while various environmental obstacles present threats to the simian's success. A mix of speed and caution will be necessary if players hope to be alive and gone before the one-minute timer expires.
Enjoy the simplistic-sounding nature, because you'll soon find Monkey Ball 2 to be anything but. The first Monkey Ball featured nearly a hundred levels that took careful balance and coordination to defeat. In the sequel, the level design has taken a turn from ingenious to insane, prompting gamers to wonder how they are expected to ever finish each stage. There are tilting bridges, high-stepping arthropods, bouncing blobs, and more geometric obstructions than I can list. The levels are more puzzling than ever, and more than being hard, are often seemingly impossible.
Though the Challenge mode is appropriately named, the Story mode grants players unlimited lives with which to attempt each level. In exchange for this bounty, we must endure a wrenching story of the four protagonists' efforts to rescue their bananas from the evil Dr. Bad-Boon. I can't tell what effect Sega was hoping to achieve with these scenes' corny dialogue and impossible situations. Whether it's a case of being intentionally cheesy, or the original Japanese not translating well, these exchanges are so bad, they're funny — but just barely.
That's all in the solo mode; a main draw for this game is the multitude of multiplayer methods. Four players can attack the puzzle mode in turns or simultaneously, or compete head-to-head in a dozen different mini-games. Returning from the original Monkey Ball are six favorites such as Monkey Fight and Monkey Bowling, expanded with new levels and variations. New games include Monkey Dogfight, Monkey Soccer, and Monkey Baseball. The right to enjoy these diversions is earned in the one-player mode, though, at such a rate that more than 30 levels must be traversed before unlocking even one mini-game. Your friends will know you love them if you've the dedication to unlock all six new games.
Though SMB2's one-player mode is as addicting as it is irritating, it is the multiplayer modes that proclaim proclaimed as the ultimate party game; yet I predict Mario Party 4 will be a better title. As many monkey games as Sega can cram, there's still greater quality, quantity, and variety in the board-type video games that have recently become popular. In the meantime, go bananas.
This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Sep-02