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SummarySega bring us yet another brilliantly playable and original arcade game.
The GoodI'll forgive you for voicing any misgivings you may have about a game in which you guide encapsulated monkeys around floating mazes in order to get to the exit, because I was once like you. Then I decided to give it a go. "It has to be good! It's Sega for crying out loud!" said I and suddenly I was a changed gamer. Okay, okay so I didn't undergo some kind of bizzare rebirth into the light of monkeys but I did find myself unable to put down the Gamecube controller until hours later and constantly drawn back to it's simple charms.
Super Monkey Ball (SMB) plays a bit like marble madness on steroids but much more addictive. You simply must guide your encapsulated monkey around various courses in a bid to reach the exit before the time runs out. The big catch is that each course takes place over a bottomless pit and if you fall off then it's back to the start. There are 3 challenges, the first being the 10 stage 'Beginner' which is a cakewalk, however things soon hot up with the next mode: 'Advanced' in which there are 30 stages, all far more difficult than those on offer before and finally there is the suicidally difficult 'Expert' mode which features 50 insane stages. Of course if you're able to clear each mode without losing a life then you get extra stages to complete and if you can beat Expert on one credit (good luck!) then there's 'Master' mode. Needless to say, Master mode is ridiculously hard but you'll keep coming back no matter how many times you send the controller flying through the TV.
All this sounds far too hard I'm sure and when you first start playing it seems that way but that's the great thing about SMB. It's one of those games where you just keep getting a little better each go and before long, courses you used to wrestle with become a breeze (to a point). Of course you can play with friends and try to beat each others scores but the real multiplayer fun comes in the form of the six mini games that are part of the package. Each one is a lot more fleshed out than your average bonus games and include Monkey Billiards, Bowling, Mini golf, Boxing, Racing and the pilot wings-esque, Monkey Target. Each game has a lot of replay value and is a vastly different experience from the main game, what's more is that many of the mini games support 4 players simultaniously, providing endless fun.
The music is highly suitable and bops along to the action in an approapriate and inoffensive manner and the graphics are very pretty despite their simplicity, running a slick 60 fps.
The BadOf course the game can get infuriatingly frustrating at times but that's to be expected given what sort of game this is. In fact I would go as far as to say SMB gets a little 'too' hard at times with some stages so insane that only a few people will ever get through them. Basically though, as long as this kind of thing is your cup of tea then the game is near flawless.