What’s more, the worlds are mostly well staged and – if slightly generic – still more interesting and imaginative than the examples found in many kiddie-focused platformers. We’re not talking Mario/Sly Racoon/Ratchet and Clank good, but Zootopia, an out of control theme park, and Moonhaven, an industrial city, floating in the clouds, would not have shamed a latter-day Sonic game. Up to a point, the same even holds true of the tasks. Forget the usual ‘collect six of this then come back to me’ rubbish – on Jungle Island alone you’ll find yourself knocking down top-hatted monkey gents to find a lost toddler, flying out of a cannon to crack open incubating bird eggs, herding swarms of bees back to waiting hives, removing troublesome weeds from wells and waking snoozing soldiers with the aid of handily situated gongs. All, theoretically, fun stuff.
Of course, it takes more than rolling to make a great adventure, so Super Monkey Ball has ‘borrowed’ another great Nintendo idea with its chants: power-ups summoned Zelda-style by a sequence of presses on the D-Pad, and taught to you progressively throughout the game. The first adds a boxing glove to the ball, but before long you’ve mastered invisibility and a ‘sticky ball’ that enables you to scale certain surfaces, not to mention chants that instantly teleport between worlds.
The game even throws in some classic Monkey Ball action, with certain gates that have to be unlocked through the completion of puzzles – basically old-fashioned Monkey Ball stages with a start point at one end, a finish gate at the other, and a whole mess of ramps, curves, traps and miniscule walkways in-between. Although developed by Traveller’s Tales in the UK rather than Amusement Vision in Japan, these stages show a solid grasp of what made Monkey Ball tick: fast, demanding stages that put the emphasis on a cool head, fast thinking and precision control.