Thursday, March 19, 2015

Game Review: Super Monkey Ball 2

Let's be honest. Throughout all gaming generations one of the most under appreciated gaming consoles in history could arguably be the Nintendo Gamecube, a console that serves as the odd bridge between the Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Wii. While the Gamecube has had its own fair share of unique games packed in its library, the fact remains that most of these games get lost in the shuffle when it comes to memorable gaming moments. This is most likely the case for many gamers out there.

This game review will be about a game that was one of the Gamecube's highlights, a game that pushed the boundaries of strategizing when it came to maneuvering through the most oddly designed levels. This game features a character who is remembered by those as being a catalyst for the short-lived run of the Sega Dreamcast. His name is AiAi and he's a monkey who plays the role of a hamster in a ball, blazing through perplexing obstacle courses to reach the Goal points and in the process protect his friends and his village from danger. This concept in innocent and creative and it won over gamers back in its day.

I have played a great chunk of Super Monkey Ball 2 for the Gamecube and I can now provide a detailed review on how I feel this game stacks up today.

Yes, we have bananas today... as long as I can get them!
Controls - 18 out of 20 Points

The controls of Super Monkey Ball 2 are interesting to say the least. You do not have the ability to jump, but that is part of the framework of the Super Monkey Ball series. You do not have the ability to collect any power-ups and you don't have any fighting moves to speak of. All you can do is move around in a ball like a hamster or like the many competitors on American Gladiators. That's it. That's very simple for any casual gamer to follow. The controls rest squarely on the control stick and how you go about moving AiAi and his friends.

The main thing that you have to account for when playing the Story Mode and Challenge Mode levels of this game is the speed that you develop while moving along. If AiAi is moving too fast at certain points, chances are you will miss your target and you will fall off the course and into the bottomless pit. Be prepared to see this many, many times if you are the reckless type of problem-solver. This could also be the only real question mark I would have for this game. The fact that you can gain so much speed and then not be able to slow down and stop in time perplexes me. I would like to at least have the option of a brake function where players can have a chance to stop at the last moment. Even so, players will get the hint right away that they can't always move so fast through these challenging courses.

A new spin on the term "Pinhead"
Graphics - 19 out of 20 Points

Gamecube graphics are solid graphics even if they weren't like the graphics you saw in PS2 and Xbox games. Super Monkey Ball 2 presented itself very well in the graphics department. I only got a slight hint of "glitchiness" while playing this game, but the visual appeal of this game is clearly present. It's colorful, vibrant and upbeat. It feels like a Saturday morning cartoon when you can just chill out and laugh a little.

There are certain nice touches that Sega implemented in this game that gives it an elegant feel as well. The shining glare of the monkey balls in the more bright levels is one example. Also, the attention to detail sticks out in all the right ways. Some of the graphics may look blocky, but it's totally understandable. That's part of the unique environment of Super Monkey Ball. It's an arcade-like experience.

Story - 10 out of 20 Points

I pay thorough attention to detail to video game stories, being an aspiring game writer myself, and this is really the only negative that I can find in this game. Super Monkey Ball 2's Story Mode cut-scenes, although cute-looking and lighthearted, are pretty much forgettable. This is of course only my opinion so I will explain. Each cut-scene only gives players a limited amount of time to actually emotionally invest in what's going on in the Story Mode. The tone of Story Mode takes on that of a Saturday morning cartoon, which is good as I just mentioned, but at the same time it feels abbreviated or rushed.

Along with a couple of elements that I really didn't care for, the plot could have been given more teeth. Dr. Bad-Boon, the odd name of the bad guy, appears one day and steals the huge supply of bananas from AiAi and his village. Dr. Bad-Boon and his minions attempt to run off with their stolen loot and the good guys start chasing them. You would have to experience these scenes fr yourself to understand what's going on, and that's kinda the problem. For me it was like I knew parts of what was going on, but not everything. This was just the 2nd Super Monkey Ball game and its world hadn't been fleshed out yet, so there was something that felt missing to me.

Music - 18 out of 20 Points

This is one part where Super Monkey Ball 2 truly shines. The music soundtracks of this game are highly engaging tunes that keep you motivated in one odd sense. These tunes are catchy and memorable, and they fit in very well with this lighthearted environment. You have a variety of options as to which soundtracks you want to hear, and whoever created these soundtracks definitely deserves a pat on the back.

I can also say that these soundtracks were cleverly created. These tunes remind me of the simpler times, the games that sparked my childhood love and appreciation for video games, such as the various Super NES and Nintendo 64 games that I would play for long periods of time. There are many different types of sounds used to make up these soundtracks, and I think that once you get used to hearing them, you will most likely not forget about them.

It also helps when you are in the middle of struggling to get past challenging levels in Story Mode and Challenge Mode that you hear pleasant music in the background. Even after you take a nasty spill and fall into the bottomless pit, the upbeat tunes don't change. That positive feeling alone from the music helps players in one way or another. For me, I could quickly take my mind off the false move I made to lose and briefly focus on listening to the cool soundtrack.

Replayability Factor - 17 out of 20 Points

Another great thing about Super Monkey Ball 2 is its overall wide variety of things to do. You have a bunch if party games to choose from if you just want to chill out and have fun, and you also have differing modes such as Story Mode and Challenge Mode. Every time you play this game and spend some time, you will be rewarded Play Points, which has a positive impact on your chances of playing more party games. The more Play Points you obtain, you more you can spend them on party games to unlock them.

For those who are specifically looking for a Story Mode that they can quickly zip through in gameplay, I wouldn't consider this game to be the right fit for you. You will need to have patience to get through all of the Story Mode levels in order to get that sense of accomplishment. Sometimes you might wind up stuck in a few levels, wondering why you can't get past a certain part. Patience, my dear grasshopper!

The party games are ultra fun though. You can easily wind up playing the same party game for some time simply because it's too fun for you to just walk away from. No matter how many times you initially fail at a party game, you want to come back for more. These party games capitalize on that beautifully. Party games like the circuit race, 10-pin bowling, baseball, tennis and paragliding are all unique ways to engage in the Super Monkey Ball experience. Some of these party games were cleverly made, in my opinion.

Overall - 82 out of 100 Points (No Bonus Points)

Every time I played Super Monkey Ball 2 I got a big kick out of the novelty of putting a monkey in a hamster ball and letting him run through an obstacle course. I watched this novelty play out during gameplay and it turned out to be an amazing experience. My overall score of 82 is a positive score, to be sure. I know other reviewers will probably give this game a much higher score, but to each their own. One neat fact about Super Monkey Ball 2 is that it's one of 3 video games that are associated with improved performance in laparoscopic surgery. It's kinda hard to believe that a simplistic game like this could make an impact in the medical field, but I find that very interesting.

Super Monkey Ball 2 is the kind of game where gamers want to challenge themselves by going through obstacles that will prove to be at least somewhat stressful. Gamers who like to plan beforehand what they are going to do before they go at full speed will most likely adore this game. As long as you can keep track of how fast you are going and can detect the friction of your surroundings, which is key since some platforms from underneath can collapse, you can find a way to get pretty far in Story Mode. This game presents the good kind of challenge for gamers, and I recommend giving this game a thorough playthrough. Meet you at the Goal Line!

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