Nobody ever would have guessed that one of the most popular games of the GameCube's launch would have been a game that involved rolling clear balls that contained monkeys around maze-like levels. However, Super Monkey Ball was so popular it eventually achieved "Greatest Hits" status and spawned a fantastic sequel in Super Monkey Ball 2. Since the series was a GameCube exclusive, PS2 owners missed out on all the fun – until now. Sega has released Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which includes the first two games in the series and some new levels as well, all for the wallet-friendly price of $30.
SMB is a lot like the phrase "kill them with kindness" because everything here is cute and happy, sometimes to the point it will make you crazy. The game follows the story of four little monkeys: AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon, who must recover all their bananas, which were stolen by the evil Dr. Bad-boon. The monkeys are all cute, their little monkey language is cute, the story is supposed to be cute, but is kind of insane – you just need to experience it for yourself.
The goal of the game is to roll your ball as quickly as possible from the start of a level to the end, while not falling off. You'll also need to collect bananas, which are placed around the levels along the way, in order to earn extra lives. The first few areas are rather easy, and allow you to get accustomed to maneuvering your monkeyball around via that analog stick. The controls are just as perfect as they were on the GameCube, but it will take some practice before you are whipping your monkeyball around the levels with ease.
SMB: Deluxe features all 114 levels from the first SMB, all 140 from SMB2, and 24 all-new levels exclusive to this game. Gradually the levels introduce turns, twists, moving platforms, and a variety of other obstacles to impede your progress. The challenge is decidedly old-school, in that you will die repeatedly, and will only beat the game through perseverance. The good new is that the game is quite addicting and you'll certainly mutter "just one more try" several times before you finally put the controller down for the day.
One of the biggest draws of Super Monkey Ball is the addictive multi-player games, all of which included here, and are unlocked from the get go. There are several sports-themed games, like Monkey Bowling, Monkey Golf, Monkey Tennis, Monkey Billiards, and even Monkey Soccer, all of which are fun to play, and yes, they all involve the monkeys-in-balls playing the sport. Other games include the highly addictive Monkey Target, where you glide your monkey through the air, collect bananas and then try to land on a bull's-eye target in the middle of the water. Competition in this game gets fierce as people will race towards powerups, steal each other's bananas and even try to knock their opponents off of the targets after they've landed. Neither the single-player, nor the multi-player is playable online, so you'll need a multi-tap and some friends to enjoy this part of the game. If you don't have any friends, it's probably worth it to make a few, if only for the purpose of playing Monkey Target.
SMB:Deluxe's graphics are rich and vibrant, which goes along with the game's light and happy feel. The levels, which float in the air, take place in a variety of locations like near a waterfall, underwater, in a volcano, and many other locales. The visuals now look a little bit dated, but this was, and still is a nice looking title. The only major drawback of playing the game on the PS2 is that there is some slowdown in certain areas that was never in the originals.
The music and sound in SMB: Deluxe is tough to judge. The music is energetic and catchy, but at some point, after hearing a tune for the 75th time it's just going to get annoying. The same goes for the sound effects; you'll just end up hearing the same thing too much. The anguished cries of your monkey falling off the edge of a level, the announcer telling you to hurry up, the incessant beeping of the timer as it winds down…you will get fed up at some point.
If you've never played any of the Super Monkey Ball games before, and you're into challenging puzzle-type games, then there's no doubt that this game is worth the MSRP of $30. If you've played the heck out of the originals, the new puzzles really aren't enough to justify the money, but it's still worth a rental. If there were a few new mini-games, or there was some sort of online play included, the package would be much more enticing. Hopefully the game will sell well and Sega will get to work on Super Monkey Ball 3 with online play.