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Super Monkey Ball Adventure PlayStation 2 & PSP

Published by SEGA
Developed by Traveller's Tales
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99 (PS2) £34.99 (PSP)

Super Monkey Ball Adventure, an introduction.

I attended the midnight launch for the GameCube here in the UK (back in May 2002) and I still remember that several people who were in front of me in the queue purchased not only the console but on average around 3 games each. Having just managed to scrape the money together for the console and a single game this made me feel a little unfortunate but it needn't have. The reason being that the game I purchased was Super Monkey Ball from SEGA. With only being able to afford a single game, I had done my research and found that those who had bought the game in the US were extremely enthusiastic about the game and on getting the console home and setting it up in the small hours of the morning, I could see why everyone was so impressed with the game. Super Monkey Ball was easily one of the best launch titles for the GameCube and even today it remains one of the best games on the console. Since then of course things have gone downhill for not only the GameCube but also for the Super Monkey Ball series. A change in direction was called for and that change was Super Monkey Ball Adventure.

What's the game about?

Super Monkey Ball Adventure is slightly different to the first two games in the series. As the name suggests there's an adventure to be had this time around and this can be found in the game's Story Mode. In addition to the Story Mode there's the Party Games mode and six mini-games on offer. The included mini-games are Race, Target, Flight, Bounce, Cannon and Tag. Finally there is the Challenge Mode. Challenge Mode feels more like the traditional Super Monkey Ball style in that you have Beginner, Advanced and Expert challenges and you can choose to play with Aiai, Meemee, Baby and Gongon.

What's good about the game?

I suppose it was inevitable that something different would be attempted with the Super Monkey Ball brand and in theory at least, having an adventure where you could play out the game as either Aiai, Meemee, Baby or Gongon certainly makes some sense and at the very least it gives Super Monkey Ball fans the opportunity to try something different. The Story Mode offers five unique worlds to play in, Jungle Island, Moonhaven, Monkitropolis, Kongri-la, and Zootopia and even throws in the addition of special abilities for your super monkey ball. You can make them hover, stick, glide and even become invisible which certainly adds something of a twist to the game play. The Challenge Mode is probably where Super Monkey Ball purists will spend their time with the game. In fact should the Story Mode not be to your liking you can skip it completely and head straight for the Challenge Mode to tackle the 50 available puzzles. Finally there's the mini-games (in Party Games mode) for up to four players (although you'll need a Multitap to achieve that number on the PS2).  It's worth mentioning that if you own both of the PSP and PlayStation 2 versions of the game you can transfer your data from one to the other. This is the second SEGAgame (the first being OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast) that allows you to do this and it's an excellent idea that more publishers and developers should take onboard.

What's not so good about the game?

Super Monkey Ball Adventure is essentially a good game. However, I'm pretty sure it's going to disappoint fans of the original Super Monkey Ball games who were expecting a true sequel to the first two Super Monkey Ball games. The Story Mode suffers from having a weak story, a horrible camera, the same puzzles you'll find in Challenge Mode and a horrible autosave system that causes the game to have a staccato like frame rate whilst it saves, which is something you definitely don't want in a Super Monkey Ball game. The PSP just pauses when it's autosaving which is actually a better of doing things.  In that last sentence we mentioned a horrible camera because in the Story Mode you have to manoeuvre the camera with the right analogue stick on the PlayStation 2 version and the L & R buttons on the PSP version. There's no getting away from the fact that the camera is very poor. Don't get me wrong it's seldom good in action adventure games but when the character you're controlling is travelling at speed in a ball, it can become quite nauseating at times.

Story Mode isn't anything special then but Challenge Mode and Party Games mode also have their problems. In Super Monkey Ball the puzzles all felt like they relied on skill and the puzzles, for the most part,  became progressively more difficult. Super Monkey Ball 2 threw all of this out of the window and mixed stupidly easy puzzles with difficult puzzles and also included a fair amount of puzzles that relied on pure luck. Unfortunately the Challenge Mode puzzles follow the pattern of the Super Monkey Ball 2 puzzles rather than that of the original game. The Party Games also disappoint to a certain degree with none of the mini-games being anywhere near the quality of those in the original Super Monkey Ball.

How does it look?

The game retains the standard Super Monkey Ball look which essentially favours solid over spectacular visuals. The frame rate is generally fine (if you don't count the stuttering whilst the autosave feature takes effect), although it does dip occasionally on the PSP version but it's nothing of any concern. In an attempt to disguise area loading times in the Story Mode you're asked to spin a large key ten times. It avoids a loading screen but it does bore your socks off somewhat. General loading times are longer on the PSP but it's nothing too bad.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Super Monkey Ball Adventure on both the PlayStation 2 and PSP is subtitled and you'll be able to follow all of the dialogue without any problems. The subtitles are needed for everyone of course as the monkeys speech is a rather irritating collection of nonsensical sounds but nevertheless it's good that the game is subtitled by default. There are no captions in the game. This doesn't cause much of a problem, although there are times when captions would have been useful. You would be alerted to the presence of enemies before you actually see them for instance. On the whole though the game won't cause deaf gamers any problems.

Final thoughts.

Let's make no mistake here, Super Monkey Ball was an absolute classic. It's sequel was still enjoyable but it wasn't quite on the same level. Since then we've had a few handheld versions that haven't really cut the mustard and now we have Super Monkey Ball Adventure. Unfortunately Super Monkey Ball Adventure doesn't manage to apply the handbrake to the rapidly declining series. The Story Mode is nothing special, in fact it's tedious in places. The Challenge Mode suffers from having puzzles that are all over the place in terms of difficulty and I personally hate levels such as 'Cascade' which rely purely on luck. Finally the Party Games mode offers mini-games that are not up to the expected quality of those mini-games found in the original Super Monkey Ball. In short then, it's a disappointment.

Overall Game Rating: 5.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

I was hoping Super Monkey Ball Adventure would see a return to form for the series but sadly it isn't to be. Either version of the game isn't a disaster but they are nowhere near the quality of the original Super Monkey Ball that first appeared on the GameCube.