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So why doesn’t Super Monkey Ball Adventure work? Well, it partly comes down to some utterly bewildering decisions. Firstly, Traveller’s Tales saw fit to include the ‘fallout’ mechanic that – in the original Super Monkey Ball – meant failing the stage if you fell off the world. In Super Monkey Ball Adventure, dropping into the sea or the empty sky means not only that you’re shifted back rapidly to the nearest restart point, which would be bad enough. It also means – more seriously – that you have to start your current task again from scratch. Factor in the fact that task objectives are frequently placed over water, or that a task might involve rolling around a roller-coaster which is built over the water, or that tasks involving cannons may well involve constant danger of losing speed and falling into the water, or that 90 per cent of the tasks in Moonhaven seem to involve rolling on wafer-thin platforms suspended above mid-air, and the results can be inordinately frustrating.
Early on, the aforementioned bee-herding mission requires collecting several swarms in a series of precision jumps, several of which put you at prime risk of a splashdown. Did nobody at Traveller’s Tales stop and think that, having collected four swarms, players might feel slightly miffed when a single mistake made while collecting the fifth meant you had to do the whole shebang again? It’s the sort of thing that puts you off a game when you’re less than an hour in.
Nor is it the only thing. For some bizarre reason, Traveller’s Tales decided to separate sections of each world with gates, which can only be opened by pushing a key lever ten – yes ten! – times around the clock in rotation. I suspect it might be some handy background data loading device, but the effect is to make you dread any such transition. You openly avoid moving between sections because you don’t want to waste a miserable two minutes of your life doing something so thoroughly unentertaining.
But above all else, Super Monkey Ball Adventure fails because the central game mechanic – a monkey, rolling in a ball – simply doesn’t work with the worlds and tasks involved. While there seems to be a little added friction between ball and surface, it’s still a frustratingly difficult business keeping the ball on track and moving in the right direction. You learn to fear any task that involves traversing difficult terrain in a set time limit, for the simple reason that you know that, under pressure, you’re almost certain to crumble and fallout, and so have to do the whole thing again.
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