NINTENDO DS REVIEW: SUPER MONKEY BALL: TOUCH & ROLL

Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll for the DS fails to take full advantage of the touch control capabilities of the handheld machine and instead is a replica of the console version. by Cole Smith

March 3, 2006 - Those looking for a unique Monkey Ball experience are going to be disappointed with Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll. It includes levels that were already featured on the console version and the touch control, which uses the stylus, is not tight enough for a game like this where precision is required to navigate the obstacle courses.

If you're unfamiliar with the gameplay, think Marble Madness. But in instead of a marble there is a see-through ball with a monkey in it. Why a monkey? It really doesn't matter, it could have been anything, even a Sea Monkey since it's only the ball that we're concerned about. You control the direction of the ball, in this case with the stylus of the D-pad, and roll it along a treacherous path to reach the goal. There are more than 100 of these paths and all of them are different. There are ones with ramps, tracks, circular platforms, bridges, stairs and slides and combinations of all of these. Some of these platforms will spin and tilt. You have to maintain balance and keep the Monkey Ball from falling off the side of a ledge as many of these paths are located high in the air.

Using the stylus you can move it in any of four directions on the screen. Move it up and the ball will roll forward. Move it down and the ball will roll backwards. Point it to either the left or right to steer it in that direction. The problem with this control system is that it just doesn't have a very good feel to it. It seems disconnected with the actual gameplay. The D-pad is definitely the way to go as it allows you more control and finesse since it moves the ball ever so slightly in any direction. It's very easy to overshoot with the stylus, not to mention that holding the game with one hand and drawing with the other is a very uncomfortable position as opposed to having your thumb clamped on the D-pad.

While you're rocking and rolling over these paths you will encounter obstacles that you want to avoid and things such as bananas that you want to collect. By collecting bananas you will earn extra lives, and you're going to need some because things get more difficult later in the game. There are timed bonus stages in which you can unlock more levels. There are also mini-games but not as many as you might expect. There is bowling, racing, fighting, golf, hockey and wars. All of the games support up to four players. Overall, the games are average, with the exception of the race game. There's not enough depth in the rest of them to keep your interest for any extended period.

Bowling involves rolling the Monkey Ball towards a group of pins. The problem with this game is that you can't control the monkey in the ball after you've launched it down the lane. I suppose that would make the game too easy but it would be interesting if you were allowed one small change in direction at the halfway point.

Racing pits you against three other players in a fight to the finish line. The "fight" comes in as you pick up weapons along the track to use against other players. The races include speed strips that were stolen from Sonic which are like conveyor belts that give you a speed boost when you run over them. There are plenty of Sonic-influenced elements in the game including the tracks themselves. With six different tracks and a kart-racer style of gameplay, the Racing mini-game has the most depth of all the mini-games.

The Fighting mini-game outfits the monkeys with boxing gloves in a fight to the finish. The idea is to punch your competitors off the platform. The concept is similar to Last Man Standing and King of the Hill. The fighting moves are extremely limited and there are only a few different platforms. The appeal of this game is also extremely limited.

With only one 18-hole golf course, you won't get much replay value out of the golf mini-game. It plays out like miniature golf course with a variety of obstacles to overcome. By outlining a circle with the stylus you will build up the required power to hit the ball. Just aim and shoot. There's not much more to it than that.

Hockey is like playing an arcade version of air hockey, but it does have some interesting twists making it the most fun and inventive mini-game of the bunch. This game takes up both screens with goals at the far end of either side. You are able to draw your paddles with the stylus. A portion of the paddles comes off after each hit until you're basically defending your net with a piece of gnat crap. To makes things even more interesting there are switches on the sides of the board that are capable of really mixing things up. They can stretch your opponent's goal to the opposite sides of the screen making scoring a virtual certainty - unless your opponent manages to get his paddles enlarged to the same proportions. Of course those conditions can also be reversed, leaving you with a small net which your opponent will find impossible to score on. You can also trigger several pucks to enter into the game for a frenzied round of scoring.

Wars is really out of place here. It's a first-person shooter that is so basic that it's really not much fun at all. Not only are perspectives difficult to judge but the controls are performed on the touch screen. Tap on it to shoot and press the arrows to rotate. It's slow and awkward and anything but fun.

Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll has a colorful, anime look to it that is aesthetically pleasing. The framerate is steady at 60 fps and the animation is very smooth. There is a decided lack of detail to some of the levels, especially in the background where sometimes there's nothing more than just some wallpaper patterns. The monkey and the ball are presented in 2D but the tracks actually look very good in 3D. The music is a bit on the relaxed side but after an hour or so I began to enjoy the slightly exotic and understated melodies.

You can't go wrong with renting this game but if you've played all of the console versions of the Monkey Ball series then you might want to save your money and rent something else since you've already experienced everything this game has to offer. Even the touch controls are more of a hindrance than a novelty.

Features:

  • Three Single-player Modes. Whether you're rolling through the 120 stages in Challenge Mode, getting up to speed in Practice Mode, or reviewing your glory in Replay Mode, you're sure to have a ball.
  • Six Party Games. All new Monkey Wars and Monkey Air Hockey join the roster of Super Monkey Ball favorites: Monkey Race, Monkey Fight, Monkey Bowling, and Monkey Golf.
  • Bring Your Friends to the Party. All party games support up to four players and allow you to play as either a boss or a normal player. If your friends don't own a copy of the game, use DS Download to play Monkey Wars and Monkey Air Hockey.
  • Pick up and Play. By simply touching your stylus to the screen, you're rolling. This makes it easy for both new and familiar fans of the series to get in the game.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll (DS)
4.2
Graphics
The blend of 2D and 3D graphics work well together. The animation is very smooth.
2.2
Control
By default it's the D-pad that you will most likely resort to since the stylus is just too awkward.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The cartoonish sound effects are good but the exotic music has an irresistible charm.
3.1
Play Value
The party-style mini-games are fun to play with your friends but they probably won't last the duration of the party.
3.2
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Sega
Pub: Sega
Released: Feb 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best