Written By Shaun McCracken

Less than a year after the U.S. debut, Super Monkey Ball returns, and this time there's more stages, modes and party games to keep you and your friends satisfied for weeks, even months to come. If you're not familiar with the Monkey Ball game/formula, it's actually quite simple. You play as a monkey encapsulated in a sphere and try to navigate crazy and sometimes ridiculous puzzles that are much like Marble Madness. Except here, it's not isometric, and you move the board instead of the ball. If this sounds complicated, it's not. In fact, the game is very easy to get into. Putting it down, well that's another story.

This time around, MB2 has a plot of sorts. For the main game, anyway. A new enemy named Dr. Bad Boon has come to AiAi's island, and has stolen all his bananas to make them taste like curry, or something like that. In a game like this, story is one thing you don't think of. In between the stages, you see cinematics of AiAi and his friends going against Bad Boon and chanting ridiculous phrases such as "Let Us Cooperate". When they say that, it makes it seem like there was such an antimocity towards each other before that they almost pray to God they work together. But that probably has to do with poor translation. Unless there's a point where AiAi screams "Bitch, I'm gonna cut you!", the phrase makes no sense. And Ei-Ei-Poo, what's the deal with that? It's a spell, but is never used. I played through the story mode 3 times, and still do not understand what the spell means.

Now there's a good segue, let's talk about the story mode, which is a big part of the game. Instead of going for the traditional arcade mode that was done in the first MB, Amusement Vision has devised a story mode that is broken down into 10 stages with 10 levels. Right there, you get 100 puzzles. They take place in different settings such as a washing machine, a clock tower and a amusement park, just to name a few. And if you're worried that there is no traditional arcade mode like I was at first, it's still there. I didn't know it was there until I found out it was labeled "Competition Mode". There, you can go for the Easy, Advanced and Hard modes, just like in the past. But here's an added bonus: you can adjust how many lives you get instead of only getting 3. You'll unlock a feature to get extra lives later on with your play points, so you may want to wait until you tackle the hard stages. Also, there are additional stages in the Competition Mode not seen in the story mode. Sega claims there are 150 stages, and that sounds about right. I didn't stop to count them all.

After you get sick of the stages, you can move on to the party games. Now we have some new games added on to the old favorites of the first. There's still Racing, Bowling, Target, Golf, Pool and Fight. But now there's Tennis, Soccer, Shot, Boat, Baseball and Dogfight. The older games have new features and changed level designs, so it still feels fresh. Most of the games are self explanatory by their titles, but I will go into a few. Target is where you launch yourself off a ramp, fly in the air then try to land properly on a target below for points. Shot is kind of like Virtua Cop without a gun, or real violence. You are pretty much on rails, and shoot anything that comes up. Dogfight is where you fly around and try to soot each other down. It's like a mix of StarFox and Ace Combat, but very simplified. All are great additions, and some make great games on their own. I do think that there are some weak offerings. Boat is one that is probably the weakest, since there's only 3 courses and has a difficult to grasp control scheme. Baseball didn't wow me over as well. It's all about preference.

Graphically, the game does look sharper than the first installment. It still has a simple look, but there's more to look at here. I did find some stages to be distracting, however. Notably, the Clock Tower. There's so many moving parts in the background, that I found myself looking off to the side than paying attention to the game. It's good to have some visual depth, but to the point where it throws you off can be a problem, at least until you get used to the stage. The game still runs at 60 fps, except for one stage. I found that the stage "Switches" slows down, and I think it's because of the fog and buttons that all have a function. That was the only stage that slowed down, so that's not bad. Even the multiplayer modes hold the frame rate up well.

The sound is average. The music can be both good or bad, depending on what you like. The problem is that most songs run in 1 minute loops, and you'll be on one stage for a fairly long time, and it's gets annoying to a point. The worst music comes from getting a Homerun in baseball, it's just plain awful. Of course, it's a game by Sega, and they're not known for their music in a positive sense.

Overall, the game is as great as the first, if not better. Some of the puzzles seemed easier this time around, while others were just ridiculous. It's not an impossible game, mind you. I have completed every single puzzle in less time than it took me to complete the Hard mode of the first game. If you become frustrated with the puzzles, there's always the party games, and they're good alone or with a friend. To say this is a kids game is a gross understatement. Sure, it has a cute exterior, but the game itself will frustrate anyone at a certain point. I'm in my 20's, and I had a hell of a time with some stages. A 7 or 8 year old would find this game impossible even on the Advanced levels. SMB2 is a challenging package, but it is also multiplayer friendly. Do not let some of the aggravation throw you off. Many people dismiss this game simply because they can complete the game. I think you're smarter than that. Just keep at it. It's not impossible, trust me.






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It's simple and addictive, but it can also be tough as hell.

Marble Madness

Super Monkey Ball


2003-2006 SPM

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