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Super Monkey Ball Jr

Super Monkey Ball was originally designed for the arcade, and then moved to the GameCube. It was then redone for the Gameboy Advanced, with a few minor changes done for the more limited capabilities of the system. I am quite the fan of the Super Monkey Ball series on the GameCube, and as such is expected I was most willing to plop down the case for Super Monkey Ball Jr. for my GBA. And was this title that I had so many expectations for worth my hard-earned cash? Yes…and no.

For those unfamiliar with the Super Monkey Ball series, SMB involves you moving a monkey around a level in order to get to the goal. On your way, you don’t encounter enemies, instead opting for bumpers, walls, hills and holes, all desperately trying to knock you off the narrow platforms of which you must traverse to get to the goal. Along the way, you collect bananas that your little monkey eats. When your monkey eats 100 of the bananas, you get an extra life.

But it’s not quite so simple. The over 50 levels can sometimes become insane, with all sorts of crazy action going on. Sometimes, there is more than one goal you can go to, which gives you different options on what you should do in the levels. For instance, if you go to the hardest goal to get to, you can sometimes skip 5 levels. But it’s much more challenging. Simply put, Super Monkey Ball is all about the challenge.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the challenge alone. You can play 4 different multiplayer games, as soon as you unlock them with points you rack up during the single player mode. 2 of the multiplayer games, Monkey Bowling and Monkey Golf, are playable on one system, while the other two (Monkey Fight and Monkey Duel) are only multiplayer one different systems.

So you actually don’t control the monkey, but actually the platform in which he or she is rolling along on. It’s not nearly as complicated as you would think, it’s actually very similar to the classic board game labyrinth. The monkey gains quite a bit of speed, though you actually can never get a real sense of speed in the game. You control the game with just the D-Pad alone, but the game was designed for an analog stick. Control with the D-Pad is absolutely terrible in my opinion, and one of the largest flaws in the entire game.

Super Monkey Ball Jr. isn’t a title that is likely to sit around on a shelf in your house as soon as you beat it. The mini-games are a fun distraction from the regular gameplay, while the multiplayer can provide lots of fun on the go. The single player should provide at least a few hours of gameplay to complete the three modes (beginner, advanced and expert) but I imagine that most people whom are new to the game will get quite some time out of it.

Graphically, the game is one of the best I have seen on the GBA. It isn’t nearly as polished as a game like Metroid Fusion or Castlevania, but the 3D graphics are superb. The monkey ball models seem a bit small, they took up more space in the GameCube version, but they probably changed the size to make it easier to control. The levels are extremely vast, though I noticed a little bit of slowdown on some of the more hellish levels later on.

The sound is pretty good, for a puzzle game. Puzzlers are never widely remembered for there sound, though a lot of effort was put in to make the sound tolerable. The music is cheerful, happy music with no bass or anything heavy. The sound effects are fairly non-existent, except for a few dings and warp noises. There is also an announcer that says ”Ready? Go!” at the start of each level, and Super Monkey Ball Jr. welcomes back the old school ”Sega” voice at the start of the game.

The package is pretty good, though a hard-core Monkey Baller might have some problems getting used to the more difficult controls of the game. Overall, it’s a graphically wonderful game with some great gameplay, just a few mild frustrations prevent it from being perfect.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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