Super Monkey Ball 2 – GC – Review

Early last year, Japanese
gamers got their hands on a joystick unlike any other: a banana.  The banana
was used to control monkey encased in a ball (hence the name of the game —
Super Monkey Ball).  The goal of the game was to move the monkey around the
gigantic levels and guide him to the goal.  Dozens of bananas could be found
along the way, most of which were placed in hard-to-reach areas that made them
hard to snatch.  But the effort was worth it because 100 bananas would earn
you an extra life, something that you needed many of if you were going to
succeed in this game.  Simple in style and simple in execution, Super Monkey
Ball played like a 3D version of Marble Madness, only better.

When Sega decided to port
Super Monkey Ball to the GameCube, they created six new mini-games, including
one of the most enjoyable party games I have ever played, Monkey Target.  In
Monkey Target, you glide your monkey ball over the target and try to land on
the highest point mark.  It looked easy, but it wasn’t, things like wind,
inertia and other factors prevented the average Joe, or even a hardcore gamer
like myself, from hitting the bull’s-eye on the first try.  Monkey Target was
the fan favorite at Nintendo’s Cube Club event, and is the reason why so many
people bought the game at the system’s launch.

Less than a year later (9
months, to be exact), Sega has given its fans a GameCube-exclusive sequel that
is not only bigger, but is also different from the original.  This is by means
a rehash.  The single-player levels are more puzzle and "think"-oriented
(i.e., you’ll have to think hard to solve them), as opposed to before, where
you’d have to carefully guide your ball across a thin platform and hope you
don’t fall off.  Don’t get the wrong idea though — I loved the first game,
and I miss its arcade-style levels.  But the new levels are just as fun, just
as challenging and just as likely to make you pull your hair out.

That’s not the only
difference.  In the first game, you had to beat the single-player levels all
in one sitting.  In Super Monkey Ball 2, you have a level selection screen,
similar to the Crazy X setup in Crazy Taxi.  Ten levels are accessible at a
time, with ten more opening up once those are completed.  Each level is given
a banana rating (the more bananas it has, the harder it will be).  You can
continue as much as you want, which is great, since the levels require a lot
more planning (in your head), which takes up a lot of time, and you only get
30-60 seconds to complete each level.

To give you an idea of
just how difficult this game is, I’ll try my best to describe the level that
stumped me the most.  You start out on a platform near the top of a huge tree
trunk.  The goal is on the side of the tree trunk, constantly spinning in a
counter-clockwise direction.  Four launch pads are located at the bottom of
the trunk, and if you stand in front of them, it’ll push the monkey so hard
that he or she will roll up the tree!  The goal is to launch yourself up the
tree at just the right time, from just the right angle, so that you can either
fall right into the goal, or land on top of the trunk and drop down to the
goal when it comes by.  Finally I succeeded.  If this sounds easy, then by all
means, try it for yourself.

Like its predecessor,
Super Monkey Ball 2 is packed with mini-games.  Monkey Fight, Target, Golf,
Bowling, Race and Billiards return in updated forms.  Monkey Target 2 is much
easier than the original.  It’s still fun, and now everyone can play
simultaneously, but I hate being able to score lots of points and collect tons
of bananas so easily.  Billiards has been improved though, featuring not one,
but FOUR game modes, including eight-ball.  Monkey Bowling is better, too.

For most of you though,
this is all old news.  What you want to know about is the new mini-games,
right?  Monkey Shot, Tennis, Soccer, Baseball, Boat Race and Dog Fight are the
new additions to the series.  How do they compare to their older siblings? 
Very well.  Monkey Tennis is a lot like Mario Tennis.  It’s fun, fast and very
challenging.  Monkey Soccer/Baseball are pretty entertaining, as is Monkey
Boat Race.  Dog Fight will probably end up being the fan favorite though,
since it plays like a multiplayer flight/combat game!  Currently I am enjoying
Monkey Billiards 2 the most, but the new mini-games are quickly catching up.

The thing that bothers me
about Super Monkey Ball 2 is how childish it is.  I could deal with the
childish antics of the first game, but the sequel takes them to the extreme. 
Super Monkey Ball was enjoyed by many adults and teenagers, especially in the
United States.  Yet for some odd reason, the sequel appears to be geared
towards young children.  I can’t figure out why.  This is not a good enough
reason to avoid playing SMB2, but it is more than enough to make you hit the
mute button (and close your eyes every time the monkeys dance).

Childish or not, I love
Super Monkey Ball 2.  It has been a great experience, whether I played it with
my sister, my friends or all by myself.  There are 150 single-player levels to
complete, so don’t count on beating this game in a week.  I personally hate it
when a game is over that quickly.  But believe me, this game will last you a
really long time.  Even after you’ve completed all of the single-player
levels, you’ll still be playing all of the mini-games.  Without a doubt, Super
Monkey Ball 1 and 2 are the two best party games on the ‘Cube, and the sequel
may very well end up being the best party game of the year.

Reviewer’s Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.8
Super Monkey Ball
2’s gameplay will thoroughly entertain you for the rest of the year and

Graphics: 8.5 
A game like Super
Monkey Ball 2 does not need to be graphically impressive, but apparently Sega
disagrees with me on this one.  I can’t complain — just look at the water
effects!  The shadows, the lighting, etc., nearly everything is top-notch.

Sound: 5
The childish
sounds and the annoying music do not mesh well with the rest of the game.

Difficulty: Hard
Someone should
start a video game abuse hotline, because after you get your hands on Super
Monkey Ball 2, you’re going to want to break your controller!

Concept: 9 
Sega must have
been secretly working on this game before the first one was released.  Nearly
all of the levels are really thought out.  Their complexity is unmatched by
any other game.

Multiplayer: 9
Sega has created
a stellar party game formula.  With twice as many mini-games, and new game
modes added to the some of the old ones, Super Monkey Ball 2 is party gaming
at its best.

Overall: 9
Party game-lovers
will be overjoyed when they get their hands on Super Monkey Ball 2.  If you’re
concerned about the words "party game" secretly meaning "kiddie game," don’t
be.  The story, sound effects and characters are geared towards kids, but the
gameplay is definitely intended for the hardcore crowd.  The mini-games are
far superior to those featured in other party games, and to be perfectly
honest, this really isn’t a party game.  Sega is promoting it as a party game,
and it is an excellent game to play with family, friends and even strangers. 
But the mini-games are deep and complex, and require strategy, not endless
button-mashing.  So to me, this is much more than a party game.  Now that you
know what Super Monkey Ball 2 is really like, don’t hesitate to buy it.