Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Video game review number two hundred and two: Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll

Video game review number two hundred and two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll"

Sometime in the year 2006....a game called Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was released for the Wii. You might remember hearing about this classic, possibly because it was a big hit in the "Monkey in a ball" crowd, or maybe because it was my last game review before this one. For people not covered by either reference above...basically, four years have passed between Monkey Ball releases, and this February brought a brand new game for fans of the series.

Or did it?

Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll feels almost identical to the version I just played four days ago. Perhaps if it had been four years (as both God and Sega intended) this might feel fresh to me, but I JUST played the other version for the first time on Sunday...and from that perspective, the two games are almost the exact same thing.

They must have added something after four years right?

Sort of.

According to the every article I can find, the big deal is that they've added Wii Balance Board support. This sounded like an interesting concept, and this is actually why I rented the two monkey games back to back. Unfortunately, it's only interesting on paper. In practice, it might just be the most horrible, awkward motion control game I've played since I tried to play the original Super Mario Brothers with the Nintendo Power Glove. If you're old enough to remember trying that, you're old enough to remember how badly it sucked. Playing Super Monkey Ball on the balance board is worse....and so bad that it almost made me eject the game.

To keep the integrity of this project intact...and just in case SOMEONE reading this review might be spared ever trying it for themselves....I did not press eject. I kept playing.

So why does it suck? Let me count the ways...

Turning left and right require you to make micro-adjustments in your balance, while going forward and backward require you to shift your weight much more heavily. This would be all well and good if the game didn't require you to do it quickly and in real time. Every level is a timed race, which makes playing with the balance board extremely awkward. I'm not sure the stupid thing can even perceive a quick shift from "up/left" to "down/right", and even if it could....I'm not sure my body is capable of shifting that quickly. After beating only four or five levels with sub-par times, I was ready to break my balance board over my knee. I resisted the urge, chose a controller to use, and suddenly the same shitty unresponsive Wiimote controls I was lamenting on Sunday seemed almost precise by comparison.

In short...the biggest new feature that they're using to justify a sequel completely sucks, but at least it made their awful Wiimote control scheme feel better by comparison. They might have improved it, or it might just suck a lot less than the balance board. Either option is very realistic.

Beyond that "feature" addition, there are some new Mini games, (and some minor variations on old ones). The menus have been tweaked a tiny bit, and I actually find them easier to navigate now. That's it. The rest of the game is almost the same, with the same graphics and the same cast. Visually, I honestly don't think it's possible to tell the difference between the two, unless you've played the hell out of either one. To most people...they're interchangeable.

All this isn't to say that I hate it or anything. The mini-games are still fun, and playing them with the controller has become passable. The balance board feature is awful, but you can turn that off. While I would never buy this game....if someone wanted to give me either this version or Banana Blitz...I'd probably choose this one.

Overall Score? 6.1/10. It's pretty much identical to the last game, so it gets an almost identical score. The extra .1 is for the new menus. While menus don't make a game, it was slightly nicer to I must recognize that effort. If you were thinking of getting this for the balance board support, don't. It's terrible. If you were thinking of trying it because you like Monkey Ball...go for it. It's more of what you love.

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