Friday, March 26, 2010

Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll Review

Written by pikaby

You may remember Super Monkey Ball on the Nintendo GameCube as one of the most brutally difficult games to clear of all time...teetering your chimp in a ball over extremely narrow paths with no rails, sudden sharp turns and slopes to reach a goal point. All the stages had to be cleared with only a handful of lives and the opportunity to get extra ones are also very limited. Now those were the days when Monkey Ball was genuinely fun. The included minigames are just an afterthought. Even its little GBA cousin, Super Monkey Ball Jr.(which I actually played all the way past Advanced mode, smooth) was frustratingly hard.

And now to this game. Since the Wii is usually marketed to casual gamers, more and more games have been deliberately made easier and used one of the Wii's many gimmicks to appeal to them. After the disappointing Banana Blitz which tried to make use of the Wiimote's tilting motion to control your ball around, Sega turns to the other control scheme the Wii has up its sleeve- the Balance Board. Unfortunately the Balance Board is even more imprecise than using the Wiimote, so what do Sega do? Make the game even easier, that's what.

The courses in Step and Roll are even wider than those in Banana Blitz, and because of the poor gimmicky controls, Sega carved deep indents and included guardrails on the courses to make sure the game was actually playable with the Balance Board. And since I don't have a Balance Board with me, I was forced to use the alternate control scheme- yes, back to the Wiimote. But the problem is since the game was obviously designed for use with the Balance Board, using the more accurate Wiimote destroys whatever 'difficulty' the game has. I literally yawned past the first ten stages in the first world.

Just look at the stage. Step & Roll forbids you to lose.

Getting free extra lives has also been made way too easy. From what I remember it was 50 bananas for one life, right? Here it's only 20. What hardcore players wouldn't give for that kind of leniency in the original game. And after clearing one world(of the six available), you're forced to sit through the credits scene without any means of skipping it. And it's more than 5 freaking minutes long. After pretending to enjoy yourself for about 15 minutes in the 10 stages you are then put on standby, with some sort of 'tilting to make balls fall through holes' minigame, an obvious rip of Wii Fit's own.

Never once does this game feel like it's entertaining you. After beating the second world I unlocked the last 3. Itching for some degree of challenge with my Wiimote I went to the last world. I cleared the first stage without losing so much as a single life. Extra obstacles on the stage for Wiimote users don't make things any more difficult either, sadly. As for the minigames, there are about 20 of them but I never bothered to try any of them out as most of them were getting tired and stale. Come on, even Monkey Golf on the GBA was better than this. The number of minigames seems to increase each time a new Monkey Ball game comes out, a sad state of affairs as the main game is forgotten.

As a whole Step and Roll feels like an unnecessary sequel to a series that has long deviated from its original path. Sega need to stop this nonsense and make a proper, analogue-stick controlled Monkey Ball again. Cashing in on gimmicks just doesn't work with this series.

Score: 5.5/10

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