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Super Monkey Ball Jr. (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Super Monkey Ball Jr. (Game Boy Advance) review


" At first glance, Super Monkey Ball Jr. brought horrible flashbacks of Marble Madness and the 3-D wooden board game Labyrinth—both of which I hated and sucked at. The resemblance was just too uncanny: navigate a little monkey in a plastic ball around a course to the finish gate by angling the terrain to make him roll a certain way. After playing a few rounds of it and continuously losing control of the monkey and watching him plummet off the edge with a heart-wrenching little shriek, I was read..."



At first glance, Super Monkey Ball Jr. brought horrible flashbacks of Marble Madness and the 3-D wooden board game Labyrinth--both of which I hated and sucked at. The resemblance was just too uncanny: navigate a little monkey in a plastic ball around a course to the finish gate by angling the terrain to make him roll a certain way. After playing a few rounds of it and continuously losing control of the monkey and watching him plummet off the edge with a heart-wrenching little shriek, I was ready to give up. But I persevered, and won a few rounds. Then a few more. And I began to get the hang of Super Monkey Ball and appreciate it for its challenge and subtlety--something that gamers increasingly used to being spoonfed easy levels and infinite continues may have a hard time with at first.

Super Monkey Ball Jr. follows the same format as its big brother for the Game Cube: you play through the stages and receive “play points” for every stage cleared, which can then be used to buy mini-games. Of course the handheld Super Monkey Ball is a significantly watered down version; there are only a limited number of mini-games to unlock, and many of the levels have been ported directly from the Game Cube version.

Still, for a handheld title Super Monkey Ball Jr. jams in a whole lot of gameplay onto that little cartridge. Besides the mini-games, there are 60+ stages in the main game spread over several different levels of difficulty: Beginner (10 levels), Advanced (20 levels) and Expert (30 levels) plus an unlockable master mode with even more stages. Although several levels have been ripped directly from the Game Cube version, a significant enough number are original so that it would be unfair to call SMB Jr. a simple port.

The first few levels of Super Monkey Ball Jr. are ridiculously easy, but it’s the kind of game where the difficulty level creeps up on you very slowly, until all of a sudden you’re staring at a huge course fraught with hills and valleys, impossibly narrow bridges, moving platforms and fiendishly positioned bumpers. Challenge in the latter levels is extremely high and requires intense concentration and skill, yet never does the difficulty seem cheap or as a result of flawed game design. Caution is a must, and controlling the monkey requires great precision on the part of the gamer. Yet meekness is penalized as well with a time limit on each level, forcing the gamer to plow ahead and be aggressive when required.

The techno soundtrack is perfect for this game; it is driving enough to be exciting yet not harsh or edgy enough to distract the gamer from the task of concentrating on the monkey. Voice clips urge the gamer on, by announcing each level with a “Ready? Go!” and a sly “Hurry Up!” if time is running dangerously low. (All voice samples are texted as well.)

The graphics have a slightly psychedelic feel to them; most of the terrain is either green or blue in an understated checkerboard pattern, and the surrounding scenery is quite eye-catching. All of the levels take place high in the air, and you can look down on blue skies and green grasses with details like clouds, trees and rocks. Other levels take place above orange lava with a beautiful purplish-pink sky and a volcano in the distance. The graphics could have been a lot more boring than they are and the game still would have been decent, however the fact that the developers went the extra distance is definitely a nice touch.

Besides simply making it to the gate before time expires, there is a secondary goal to each level of collecting bananas, which get the player an extra life when enough are accumulated. Not only are there 60+ levels in the game, but there is a choice of four different monkeys to take on each course, who are all different sizes and thus control differently (Aiai, Meemee, Baby and Gongon.)

There are only a handful of mini-games on the cartridge, and all of them are unplayable until you unlock them with play-points. Monkey Bowling and Monkey Golf are pretty good single-player games that provide a nice break from the stresses of the rolling platforms. A few of the mini-games are even multi-player. The replay value, then, is enormous, and a battery save feature makes the game perfect for venturing out of the house with.

Once you start playing a game like this it’s hard to put down. There’s always something to keep you coming back, whether it’s to get more play-points and see how many secret levels and mini-games to unlock, or to challenge a friend to one of the several multi-player mini-games. In terms of sheer length and replayability, Super Monkey Ball Jr. has to be one of the better non-RPG deals to come out on the Game Boy Advance so far. Just be warned that if you’re an impatient person seeking action and instant gratification, this is likely not a game for you.

Rating: 8/10

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 25, 2003)

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