|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SEGA||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 9, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The Marble Madness-inspired Super Monkey Ball series is back on the Wii with Step & Roll. This time around the developers have focused their resources on making a Balance Board-friendly title that's both innovative and entertaining. They wanted to add some spice to their simian franchise with refreshed graphics, alternative gameplay, and even a new character. But, did they manage to realize these ambitious endeavors?
Everything starts on the right track. The presentation is a step-up from the previous title, Banana Blitz, providing more details, richer textures, and fun world environments like Far East, Magma Valley, Excavation Site, Polar Festival, and the aquatic Chimpan Sea. In this regard, there's nothing to complain about. Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll is an attractive title that maximizes the potential of the series as far as visuals. The franchise's beloved characters return: AiAi, MeeMee, GonGon, and Baby. Not only that, but SEGA has added a new ape to the mix; his name is Jam, and he's a goofball trainer who will teach you all the ins and outs of the game. His quirky moves before starting a mini-game or entering a new stage will put you in a good mood.
Of course, the franchise is known for its loud and shrill monkey sounds as well. These go very well with the game's flashy and almost seizure-provoking appearance, but they do grate after a while. At least, that's what most people's thoughts are when they're first introduced to this wacky title. Sometimes it annoys me too; however, I've been following the series from the beginning, and this has made me look at it in a different way. It just wouldn't be the same without all the rowdy ruckus.
The music is poppy and eccentric too. It has an unmistakable Japanese arcade flare that will drive you crazy, all the while making the kids jump around in excitement. It's actually clever and fun, but it does suffer a bit from repetition. Super Monkey Ball is, no doubt, a party-oriented game, and it's also best suited for the younger ones. The 21 mini-games included in the title will keep them busy for a long time, especially if they end up finding some ultimate favorites. I used to be a fan of Monkey Target, and you can't imagine how many evenings I spent competing against my friends, fighting for that victory score!
Monkey Target is back, but there are plenty of other mini-games worth mentioning as well, such as Balloon Race, Battle Pinball, Hovercraft Battle and Race, Jump Rope, Luge, Monkey Race, Monkey Snowboard, Seesaw Ball, Skydiving, and Sumo Smash. Some of them are really fun, but then others just don't cut it, especially when the controls are iffy. It's all hit or miss, which is a shame, considering kids could spend hours on end just playing the mini-game portion of Step & Roll. Fortunately, using the Wii Remote improves things significantly, and this applies to the game's Main mode as well.
You probably know about Super Monkey Ball's mechanics by now. Each stage contains a maze-like scenario full of winding tracks, moving platforms, bumpers, and other handicaps; you control a monkey trapped inside a ball and simply have to reach the goal. Sometimes it's really easy, but as you advance through the six different worlds, you'll come across some particularly challenging levels where other elements come into play. For example, there's one where you enter mirrored gates that change around the entire stage. Getting to the goal is no easy feat! Others rely on simpler physics tricks; if you're not careful, the increasing downhill speed will be your doom, as you ricochet against a bumper and end up flying in the air.
When you play with the Balance Board, the challenge goes even further. Your body is not as stable as your hand, and the sensitivity of the Board makes you lose control easily. It's not easy to distribute your body weight in such a way that the ball will go exactly where you want it. The developers realized that and even removed some of the obstacles present when playing with the Wii Remote, but even still, the game can become frustrating really fast.