Super Monkey Ball Deluxe Xbox Review

They’re back, AiAi, Gongon, Meemee and Baby, those 4 little monkeys in their plastic balls, but unfortunately they don’t have much new to offer us this time round. Rather than producing an all new Monkey Ball game, which everybody’s been waiting for, Sega have opted for a greatest hits approach with this game.

Graphics

Moving the game to a higher powered console has done nothing for the graphics unfortunately. Visually, nothing has changed from the GameCube versions of the Monkey Ball series. This isn’t such a bad thing though, as everything is still as clear and crisp as it was 3 years ago when the original was a launch game for the GameCube, and have aged surprisingly well. Everything moves along at a solid frame rate, and is nice and colourful, but the cutesy look of it all may put some people off, especially on a console like the Xbox where most owners will be more inclined towards realistic looking games.

Gameplay

For those unfamiliar with the Monkey Ball games, what rock have you been lieen living under, the basic idea of the main game is to guide your little monkey in his ball through courses to an end goal, collecting bananas along the way, within a set time limit. This isn’t as simple as it sounds though, with 300 levels (114 from Monkey Ball 1, 140 from Monkey Ball 2 and 46 all new levels) this time round, each getting progressively harder and more complex as you advance. The format for the main part of the game follows that of Super Monkey Ball 2, in that there are 4 modes, Story mode, Challenge mode, Competition mode and Practice mode. In Story mode the game is split into worlds, in which you must complete 10 levels before you get a cut scene and move onto the next world, the difference this time round though is instead of getting just 10 levels to complete, you get 20, and can pick and choose which levels you complete, making it easier as it’s possible to avoid those impossible levels that had you tearing your hair out before. Challenge mode is split into 3 difficulty levels (with a fourth unlocking when you complete all those) the difficulty levels as well as increasing in difficulty also increase in size, with beginner having just 40 levels, advanced 70 and expert 100. You get 3 lives with which to complete these and an extra life for every 100 bananas collected, and although continues are available, if you can complete the whole lot without using one, further levels are added. Challenge mode can be played in single or multiplayer, with players taking turns on each level. Competition mode is a multiplayer only affair where you select a number of levels from the ones you completed in the first two modes for split screen play of up to 4 players. Practice mode is as you’d expect just giving you the chance to practice any levels you’ve unlocked in Story or Challenge mode, handy for perfecting your techniques on the more difficult levels.

Then there’s the party games, 12 mini games, mainly based on a sport, which can all be played in single or multiplayer. You get Monkey Race which involves just rolling your ball around a course picking up power ups. Monkey fight which attaches a boxing glove to your monkeys ball and lets you duke it out on suspended platforms knocking the others off. Monkey Target, where you roll your monkey down a ramp and then open his ball into wings and glide and drop onto targets for points. Monkey boat, another race game, but as you’re on water this time the ball has oars which both propel and steer you, using your shoulder buttons. Monkey Shot is like a light gun game, just guide a target and shoot the bad guys, the only game where you don’t get to see the monkey. Monkey Dogfight, in which your monkey’s ball is given wings, and you fly round shooting the other monkeys, homing missiles are also available in this. Monkey Billiards, just pool played with Monkey balls instead of pool balls. Monkey Bowling, golf, baseball, soccer and tennis are all pretty self explanatory. Some people might think these mini games are just a diversion from the main game, but they are far more than that, while some of them are a bit hit and miss, some of them are the best multiplayer games ever made and are just as an important part of the package as the main game, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sat up till 4am playing multiplayer Monkey Ball with mates.

Now for the bad news, whilst this is a pixel perfect port of one of the best games of the last few years, it could have been so much more. Sega have really wasted an opportunity here to add to the game. Some more new levels would have been nice, and even a level creator wouldn’t have been too much to ask, would it? But the biggest omission has got to be the lack of online play, Xbox Live is just crying out for a game like this. The party games alone online would have made this a must buy for every Xbox Live player. But apart from those small niggles it’s still an excellent game.

Sound

Despite some great little tunes, this game isn’t much to write home about sound wise. There are a lot of tunes in the game, some of them really catchy and will have you humming along as you struggle to complete a level, but others are just plain annoying. The majority occupy the middle ground though, and are instantly forgettable. The sound effects aren’t any better either, the odd ping and bleep either way, and the level completion jingles are nothing special at all. The good tunes do stand out though, and while the majority is banal and/or generic, you’ll remember the good ones, and even end up humming them in random moments while you’re away from the game.

Lifespan

Whilst the single player has some replay ability, as a lot of the levels have multiple ways to complete them, the real lasting ability of the game lies with the party games. The original on the GameCube is widely recognised as one of the best multiplayer games ever made, and this incarnation is no different. This is the game to get out when you have some mates over, and probably will be for years to come, long after you’ve completed the single player mode.

Overall

A great game, remade, not much extra added, but still a great game. Any Xbox owners who never had these on the GameCube owes it to themselves to buy this. It’s a pity that more wasn’t added, but this still stands out as a good single player, and outstanding multiplayer game. There’s only one good reason not to buy it, and that’s owning Monkey Ball 1 and 2 already.

8.5 out of 10

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