Unlike the usual puzzle-platform gameplay that accompanies Super Money Ball titles, this latest release from SEGA is more of a 3D adventure with NPC-driven puzzle-platform overtones. And, considering that the gameâ€™s familiar series characters (AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon) are restricted to being inside the prerequisite â€˜Monkey Ballâ€™ for the entire game, Super Monkey Ball Adventure offers up an oddly appealing challenge that requires constant player precision in rolling, jumping, and bouncing throughout various detailed and tricky environments.
The gameâ€™s central component is Story Mode, where players choose one of the four aforementioned monkey characters and embark on a largely â€˜action-errand-basedâ€™ quest to spread joy and happiness across Super Monkey Ball Adventureâ€™s five troubled Monkey Kingdoms. Princess DeeDee of Monkitropolis and Prince Abe-abe of Kongri-la have met and fallen in love, but the disharmony felt across the kingdoms frowns upon their relationship, so, with nowhere left to turn, the young lovers seek refuge on Jungle Island. However, players can use their favourite character to travel the kingdoms to solve 50 standard-issue ball-balancing puzzles, restore joy to the monkey world, cast useful and impressive spells over their ball, defeat the evil â€˜Naysayersâ€™ who are sucking the monkey world dry of its invaluable happiness, and help DeeDee and Abe-abe to finally unite with a peaceful and euphoric blessing. Sounds cute, doesnâ€™t it? It is.
Beyond the Story Mode, Super Monkey Ball Adventure offers up Challenge Mode and also Party Games. In Challenge Mode, players go up against the clock across varied progressively difficult shifting-platform puzzles (also found during Story Mode), which will be a welcome addition for the more traditional Super Monkey Ball fan; whereas Party Games Mode can be played in single player or network multiplayer modes (for up to four players) in fun quick-fix events such as Monkey Race, Monkey Target, Monkey Fight, Monkey Bounce, Monkey Cannon, and Monkey Tag.
Super Monkey Ball Adventure is as impressive on the PlayStation Portable as it is on the PlayStation 2; its general level of graphic presentation and overall visual quality being instantly appealing and thoroughly respectable for either platform. If anything, the PSP version of the game is a slightly more standout achievement in that it successfully utilises the notorious analogue nubbin for complete and intuitive Ball movement, while mapping camera controls to the Left and Right shoulder buttons. Naturally, the PS2 relies on twin analogue sticks to accomplish movement and camera control, but a recent deluge of otherwise promising PSP games have crumbled and died thanks to truly awful camera restrictions. Not so here, which certainly elevates the game above more high-profile PSP releases such as Tomb Raider: Legend, Monster Hunter. Freedom, and Splinter Cell: Essentials.
Game music and sound effects are typically catchy, cute, and representative of the seriesâ€”in terms of being best suited to the younger generationâ€”perhaps never more so than when a Monkey Ball teeters precariously on a high platform, cliff edge, or overhang, and its cuddly little occupant whimpers fearfully for its life. Also, the nonsensical NPC chatter thatâ€™s passed out while assigning specific â€˜make me happyâ€™ errands and quests to the playerâ€™s chosen monkey is amusingly babyishâ€”if not a little repetitive and annoying once some way into the game.
Gameplay is fairly simplistic in essence but also strangely compelling. The core mechanics of the game are built on rolling throughout various pretty environments, chatting to the locals, accepting tasks, pushing, knocking, smacking, and bouncing, up, over, and on various platform-friendly elements, and generally making the world a much happier place. Thereâ€™s little else to doâ€”except open mysterious locked doors between separate level areas via timed platform-shifting Super Monkey Ball puzzles in another dimension (essentially the puzzles in Challenge Mode). Yet, despite its somewhat limited variety, the relatively laid back pacing of the gameplay quickly allows for a warm association between Monkey Ball and player, whereupon time slides by unnoticed even though thereâ€™s rarely anything within the game to pose a considered and lengthy challenge. Itâ€™s just one of those games thatâ€™s likeable without being frustrating to play or overly taxing on skill levels.
By that notion, Super Monkey Ball Adventure falls into the same critical category as games like â€˜Ty the Tasmanian Devilâ€™ and â€˜Pac-Man World 3â€™, insofar as theyâ€™re obviously slightly reduced on the challenge of their core difficulty and a breeze to play for the more hardened gamer, yet they provide a welcome respite from the mundane rinse and repeat first-person shooters, banal third-person fighters, and seemingly endless sports sequels. Thatâ€™s not to say that Super Monkey Ball Adventure surpasses the likes of Half-Life 2, NBA 06, or Dead or Alive 4â€”it clearly doesnâ€™tâ€”but itâ€™s not supposed to. Ultimately, as a stand-alone title, itâ€™s catering for the more youthful demographic that perhaps prefers its gaming thrills without gallons of fist-pummelled gore, the incessant tinkling of spent shells, a body count running into the thousands, or endlessly dull team statistics and behind-the-scenes management. Super Monkey Ball is simple, direct, and appealing in its 3D platformer delivery, and it successfully harks back to a time where gaming could be fun without having to annihilate an entire alien race in the process.