Platforms: PS2, PSP & GameCube - PS2 version reviewed.
One thing I always liked about the Super Monkey Ball series was that the titles pretty much summed up everything you needed to know about the game. You had a monkey, in a ball. He or she rolled from the start of the level to the end of the level, collecting bananas, and the results were, generally speaking, super. On the DS, Super Monkey Ball: Touch and Roll told you that it was basically the same thing, but you touched the screen to roll. Easy.
Following this logic, it’s not hard to see where Super Monkey Ball adventure is headed. This is essentially the core Super Monkey Ball mechanics broadened out for an ape-related adventure. In other words, it’s a 3D platform game with rolling, or – to hit the nail right on the head – a simian spin on Super Mario Sunshine. Those old simple stages have been thrown out in favour of a series of larger, more coherent monkey worlds, and the structure is broadly identical, with various areas to be explored, characters who offer you tasks to be performed, bananas to be collected and sections to be unlocked. For some people, this will be reason enough to despise the game – the last thing the world needs is another 3D platform game – but I disagree: good 3D platformers are now so few and far between that we could do with a decent example.
And at least Super Monkey Ball has always had one thing in its favour: simple, loopy charm. In this respect, Super Monkey Ball Adventure doesn’t disappoint. The graphics are as bright and beautiful as ever, full of the classic ‘blue sky’ Sega magic and boasting the sort of glossy sheen you would hope for. From the moment you set eyes on the lush greenery and blue waters of the opening Jungle Island, it’s clear that this should be a cut above the usual nonsense that appears every time a new CGI family film hits the streets, and that impression is only confirmed when you notice the surprising amount of detail in the architecture and background textures.
Admittedly, the storyline – think a hairy variation on Romeo and Juliet – feels prosaic after the bewildering nonsense of Super Monkey Ball 2, but at least Super Monkey Ball Adventures manages to find some weirdness in characters. Take the pretentious photographer, who keeps asking you to pose in his landscape shots, or the incompetent magician who needs your help to perform a monkey magic show.