The main SMB game is split into different levels across a larger landscape. Each level is made up of several maps that have to be traversed, with each one increasing in difficulty. Although some of the maps seem to be impossibly frustrating at first, a little perseverance will usually result in your monkey prevailing. Of course there’s nothing worse than getting stuck on one of the last maps in a level and having to go back to the beginning every time you get the game over screen, so it’s a good thing that there’s a Practice option thrown in – this allows you to jump straight to the level that’s giving you trouble and keep at it until you’ve got it cracked. Then you can go back into the main game and (hopefully) waltz past it.
It’s also great to see that Sega has included many of the sub-games seen in the previous Super Monkey Ball outings. Monkey Bowling is one of my favourites, while the Monkey Race can be even more challenging than the main game. There’s even a first person shooter thrown in, with you wandering around a 3D maze trying to take out your fellow primates – at first the control method for this one feels unfathomably convoluted, but after a bit of practice you soon get used to it.
As anyone who’s played Super Mario DS will tell you, these sub-games can become scarily addictive and often you can end up spending more time playing these than you do the main game. But many of these games are at their best when you’re playing against real opponents rather than computer controlled ones – if you’ve played Monkey Boxing on SMB Deluxe on your Xbox you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. So, you’re going to want to play some of these with your friends using the wireless linkup. Some multi-player action can be had with a single cartridge, while other games will need each player to have a copy of the game, but if you and your friends are fans of the original SMB games, you’ll probably all have Touch & Roll anyway.
Graphically SMB looks as good as it possibly could on a platform like the DS – the colours are bright, the terrains attractive and the animation perfectly cartoonish. Likewise, the sound is all happy little ditties and monkey squeaks and squeals – pretty much exactly what you’d expect. But SMB has never been about flashy graphics or awesome sound effects, it’s about gameplay.