Monkeys. Balls. Oh, the countless jokes I could make about the game’s title – Super Monkey Ball Adventure. Unfortunately for gamers, the real joke is this game’s tedious, fetch-questing adventure aspect.
Super Monkey Ball has always been known for its simple but frantic single player puzzle mode and its addictive and highly competitive multiplayer modes. While both of those elements are still present in Super Monkey Ball Adventure, they are hacked down in number and take a complete backseat to the chore that is the story mode.
In order to flesh out the puzzle mode, developer Traveler’s Tale added a full-fledged overworld environment to the game’s story mode. Things begin innocent enough with the Monkey Ball crew barbecuing bananas on the hottest day of the year. But when a mysterious “mechanical bird” flies overhead and crashes into the local lighthouse, the situation turns ugly when the monkey heroes not only have to investigate the crash but also find out why the joy of Monarch is missing.
With all of the monkeys’ joy gone, everyone on Jungle Island has a sudden dilemma and players will later discover the same has happened throughout the monkey world. For the most part, it ends up that almost all the monkeys are now missing something and it’s up to you to fetch it for them. While the idea seems good on paper, the big 3-D worlds just add an annoyance factor with extremely frustrating and mundane tasks.
The worlds' layouts consist of areas that are either completely flat or inclined and fail to capture the essence of speed or precision that the games before brought to the table. While some areas are easy to access, extremely awkward camera angles, poor collision, and a pretty much useless map will lead to a lot of frustration as players attempt to navigate the remainder of each world.
When a player does reach someone in need, missions sometimes just add up to trial and error and require a lot of exploration. While there are some enjoyable missions such as ones that require stealth and running down monkeys, they are mixed in with a huge number of missions that are nothing more than “collect this” and “find this.”
Players are also not able to take multiple missions and if you should fall off the map and fail the mission, your monkey comes back in a seemingly random location with the mission deactivated. You then have to track down the monkey in need once again and start the mission completely over. After failing a mission multiple times, the repeated process becomes quite annoying.
The frequent disc access will also have players banging their head against the wall. Every world is made of multiple sections, which require loading when going back and forth. Accidentally entering another section during a mission will cancel the mission and players will have to start from scratch no matter how far they are into the task.
On a good note, however, the large worlds will keep curious players rolling around for quite a long time. The landscapes are riddled with bananas that, when enough are collected, will help players accomplish a few more missions and — more importantly — purchase extras that will increase the number of features in multiplayer.
Over the course of play in story mode, some neat power-ups become available to the player. Incorporated into the game as chants players learn to string together, the monkeys can customize their ride with power-ups. While some simply transport players to a different location in the world, others deck your ball out with a spring-loaded boxing glove, suction cups, invisibility, growth, and more. Of course, the power-ups are the key to solving much of the later missions in the game.
The puzzle and multiplayer modes still remain in the game with more than 50 new puzzles, which are also encountered periodically throughout story mode to unlock certain doors.
Puzzle mode is basically the original single player modes from the first two Monkey Balls in which players make a mad dash for the exit for maximum points. The multiplayer modes are cut in half with three new additions – cannon, bounce and tag. While it brings new games to the table, the only one I personally found any fun was the addicting Monkey Cannon, which has you shooting down other players’ castles by using your monkey ball as a cannon ball.
Graphically, Super Monkey Ball Adventure loses its flair over the previous titles through the story mode’s generic looking environments. Instead of the bright, zany graphics of the puzzle mode, players are given areas that seem like they were pulled out of Sonic Adventure with frame rates that sometimes aren’t consistent with the action.
All the sound in the game is recycled from previous versions, including the ever-annoying monkey talk. The story mode is filled to the brim with these sound bytes and will drive anyone older than 10 completely insane. Pound for pound, every sound byte in the game is 100 percent from other versions of the game. You get nothing original, but, just as in the previous versions, what you’re given does its job.
The game controls just as well as the previous versions, but the game is chock full of horrid camera angles that will cause many bad situations for your monkey. Although there is some questionable physics with the inclines, your ball will do everything you command it to do.
Overall, Super Monkey Ball Adventure is an excellent idea that falls victim to poor execution. While the game is very playable, the story mode will try many gamers’ patience and the cutback in everything that made the game a success in the first place is lost among the expansive fetch-driven single player mode. Players will most likely spend most of their time in the puzzle and multiplayer modes for a quick fix of monkey action.
Super Monkey Ball Adventure is rated "E" for Everyone by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS2 and PSP.