As an avid gamer, you’d think that I’d be wealthy in the number of trash-talking gaming buddies I would have; however, that’s not the case with me. It’s like pulling teeth to get one of my friends to play a game with me. Nonetheless, when I received a copy of Super Monkey Ball 2 about a week ago, one of my friends was ecstatic. At first I was shocked at my friend’s excited desire to monkey around on my 'Cube; but then I realized the only game my friends will play is the game about sliding the monkey through goal. It was then that I realized the true greatness of Super Monkey Ball 2.
Sega has brought us a second wave of monkeys in Amusement Vision’s second game in the series. The first, Super Monkey Ball, was a solid, successful GameCube launch game that clearly laid the ground work for a continuing series. Beyond Super Monkey Ball 2, Sega has announced that THQ will be publishing a GameBoy Advance version of the series in the beginning of next year in North America; the title is set to see European shores as well. With the series gaining momentum, it should be expected that more titles are on the way. Consequently, Super Monkey Ball 2 is not only a sequel, but it’s a precursor of monkeys to come.
Amusement Vision has done a fine job of rendering their monkeys in clean, clear detail. The environments are well designed with a variety of colors and textures that give the game a pleasant appearance. Super Monkey Ball 2’s overall design is very similar to an arcade game: the foreground serves as the plane for gameplay complimented by extremely well-rendered, animated backgrounds. Each gameplay stage features different puzzle designs, yet are graphically similar. At the beginning of the game, stages are simple and utilitarian; yet, as the game’s stages progress, the stages feature interesting obstacles and graphical effects. In addition to the gameplay stages in the game’s story mode are cut scenes depicting the mode’s storyline. Although overly cheesy, they make the most of the GameCube’s hardware and are nice to view.
Other than the game’s story mode, the graphics in Super Monkey Ball 2’s multiplayer mode are outstanding. The monkeys and their balls animate smoothly in all of their “monkey games.” Each game highlights various environments that are all bright and fun to play in. Overall, the game’s graphical appearance is on par with next-generation visual standards.
As with many puzzle games, Super Monkey Ball 2’s audio experience is repetitive and quirky. Stages and menus are all consistence in their use of music and sound effects, a good and bad thing. Although it’s a good thing that Amusement Vision has been diligent in their audio design, it’s slightly annoying that it has to be so repetitive. Different worlds in story mode feature new music tracks, but each of the stages within the world use the same track. Should you mute your television during gameplay, you’re likely not to miss out on anything.
The story mode’s cut scenes include not only music and sound effects, but also voice actors. Be warned, however, that these actors don’t speak any human language; rather, they speak monkey language and it’s more than quirky. Fortunately, you have the option of using subtitles, defeating the point of listening to the acting. It may be fun to play monkeys with your friends, but I don’t need to hear.
Super Monkey Ball 2 is a well-rounded game not only in terms of its main gameplay mode, but also in its multiplayer form. The game features a main story mode that has ten worlds of ten stages each, a hearty challenge mode for single-players, practice mode, and multiplayer modes including twelve mini-games.
In story mode, you play through ten different worlds each containing ten stages, or puzzles. In between each world are cut scenes depicting a very nonsensical story. It’s your typical monkey story: the main character, Aiai, and his friends get jerked around by Bad-Boon, let out a few squeaks in musical form, and then beat the bad guy to the ground. The scenes are long and annoying; the story isn’t necessary to the gameplay and only serves to lengthen the amount of data on the disc. Even more, you can’t even understand the monkeys since they don’t speak English. In all, the story mode is an excellent way to become familiar with the game, as long as you skip the cut scenes.
Challenge mode provides an alternative way of playing through the game’s stages alone without monkey-ing around with the game’s cut scenes. With three levels of difficulty, you can play through some of the game’s stages with a set number of monkey lives. Be careful: don’t roll too fast or you’ll get off before you reach the goal. Should you make it through the stages without losing too many lives you can unlock fun, but difficult extra stages. Should any of the stages serve as too great a challenge to you, take on practice mode where you can master each puzzle without worry.
Super Monkey Ball 2 gives an excellent single-player experience in both story and challenge mode. For the most part, the level of difficulty appropriately increases; nonetheless, there are some stages that are absurdly difficult. Consequently, you may become slightly frustrated or perplexed as to how to complete some of the puzzles. This frustration, however, is quite different from other game: whereas most games frustrate through bad design, Super Monkey Ball 2 frustrates through good design, difficult puzzles. The physics are spot on and never leave you questioning their accuracy. Any fall outs are player-induced and that is what frustrated me the most: knowing that it was my fault that my monkey fell out. Super Monkey Ball 2 is a solid single-player puzzle experience.
Where the game truly shines is multiplayer. With twelve excellent mini-games allowing up to four simultaneous players, Super Monkey Ball 2 is the best multiplayer experience since Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers Melee. The mini-games are the heart of the multiplayer mode, with the six games from the original game available at the beginning of the game and six new games that can be unlocked by playing through the game alone. Games like Monkey Bowling and Monkey Soccer are a blast to play with friends. If you and your friends are looking for a new trash-talking avenue, walk this monkey.
All in all, Super Monkey Ball 2 is a solid, challenging title that should make GameCube owners happy. With the drought of 'Cube games finally over, Super Monkey Ball 2 is part of a new wave of quality games on the way. Next-generation graphics, solid gameplay, and crazy multiplayer make this one good game. So grab a bunch of bananas and go get your monkey on.