Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Segaís addictive Super Monkey Ball 2 is another excellent addition to the series and makes a serious claim to the multi-player crown. With more than 100 different levels in its main game plus twice the amount of party games, the replay value in the title is much higher than even the original title. Enhanced graphics, improved controls (with less board rocking) and more brilliant level design makes for a brilliant game. Add in 4-player gameplay in Party mode, a bevy of challenge modes and ever branching unlockables to make Super Monkey Ball 2 one of the yearís top titles.

Super Monkey Ball 2 brilliantly takes classic play mechanics of Marble Madness while adding layers of new abilities and tasks. This is one of the most original and enjoyable franchises to come around in the last few years and was a refreshing change of pace from the violent games that seem to be so popular. The object is simple: you guide your monkey, whoís trapped in a ball, through a series of levels, towards the goal posts at the end of each level without falling over the sides but before the time runs out. It sounds simple but the actual gameplay a lot harder and more complicated than it sounds. Thereís a lot of skill involved, and you need to have a good feel of how the Monkey Ball will respond to your movement, with a good understanding of momentum essential to success. Add in SMBís excellent controls and brilliant level design allow for an intuitive interface that rarely undermines the brilliant gameplay.

The first Super Monkey Ball was one of the best titles of 2001, and this yearís installment is even better. From both single-player and multi-player modes, the original game was almost unmatched as far as sheer addictiveness and replay value and the sequel builds upon these successes. It was indeed, a promising start for the newly minted third-party. SMB was incredibly fun throughout yet there was enough skill involved to hook older players as well. The second time around however this is an absolute must buy with improved graphics and many new modes of play. The main object remains the same, guide your monkey through an obstacle course of levels, each more difficult and ingenious than the last. The trick is finding the key to each level. These levels still start out simply but become increasingly complex and challenging as you progress through. Super Monkey Ball 2 has the same addictive control scheme, which is incredibly simple to understand, yet the level designs make each level challenging. While in some cases, having to replay the levels again and again would quickly become frustrating, in this case, guiding the monkey is so much fun, it doesnít really matter.

There are three main single player modes in the game. There is Story mode, Challenge mode and party game mode. In the story mode, you progress through each level by completing each individual board and then moving on, when you complete all the boards, a new level opens. Challenge mode is very similar but here you have to complete your goals before the timer runs out. Party mode presents you with six different party games, including enhanced versions of Monkey Shoot, Monkey Fight and Monkey Target. Each of these requires a different skill set and is distinct and enjoyable in and of themselves, presenting the player with a different mechanic and goal for each. Along with these, are new party games to unlock including sports themed Monkey Soccer, Monkey Baseball and Monkey Golf, with 6 new stages available in all. Taken together, these min-games add to the replay exponentially and keep the game fresh long after the shrink-wrap has been torn off.

What makes Super Monkey Ball 2ís main game so addictive is the sheer variety of tasks, no two levels are alike, and each one presents you with a unique challenge. Some of the levels feature sliding areas, spinning sections, objects and switches. The variety thatís been packed into the game is mind-boggling, and keeps the replay value within the single player mode very high. Each level is ranked by difficulty, and players donít need to conquer them in any particular order. Some of these are, of course ridiculously simple, and only need a single go round or two to complete. Others seem impossibly difficult, and youíll need to play through a few times to figure out the secret. In a big change from the original, thereís now a story in Super Monkey Ball 2. Each level also comes complete with a small storyline cinema that you unlock, transporting you to another world, with unique own music and elaborate background animations. Coming up with so many distinct levels is impressive enough, but tweaking each with nearly flawless play-balance would be probably too much to ask of a developer with less talent than Segaís Amusement Vision team has displayed.

The controls are something close to perfect, with a variation on the old Marble Madness theme, though the boards donít rock as much as they did in the first game. Camera angles seem to be better this time as well, with fewer blocked viewpoints making for a more enjoyable game with fewer cheap fall-outs. Level designs also seem to feature a greater variety and more creativity than the first game did, making the gameplay all the more exciting and challenging. Some levels seem impossible, but a little persistence pays off. The non-linear design of the game allows you to play levels and modes out of order, and is the perfect antitode to those frustrating moments when you canít seem to figure out one of the puzzles.

If thereís any problem with the game, itís that while the levels are challenging, some can go over the border to frustration. The other problem lies in the gameís appeal as playing too many level consecutively can become numbing. However, taken in small doses, this is a brilliant diversion. The designers seemed to have realized this and the non-linear play always allows you to practice or replay levels and mini-games. Since you can only unlock additional games in the challenge mode, it makes the game all the more tempting, since itís so much fun. It should go without saying that SMB2 is incredibly, almost dangerously addictive. You can spend hours trying to master the later levels, then hours more trying to get the high-score on that newly unlocked mini-game. Thatís what makes the game so appealing. In the end, this is a superb, addictive title with nearly flawless play balance. Fans of the original wonít be disappointed and older players who missed out the first time should definitely give it a spin. Donít let its juvenile look fool you, Super Monkey Ball 2 has enough challenge, depth, variety and fun to appeal to all ages

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