Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll Nintendo DS
Published by SEGA
Developed by SEGA
Release Date: Out Now
Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll, an introduction.
Super Monkey Ball was the first game I played on the GameCube (having picked up a copy on the console's launch day) and it still stands as one of the best games on the console. Super Monkey Ball 2 was almost as good and currently we are eagerly awaiting the next title in the series. Since Super Monkey Ball 2, the series has found its way onto other formats such as the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The series has also appeared on handheld consoles (on both the GBA and N-Gage) but these handheld versions suffered from the lack of an analogue control and the overall experience just wasn't as good. Can the DS with its touch screen and stylus finally give the series a handheld version it deserves?
What's the game about?
Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll offers the same game play formula of Super Monkey Ball and its sequel. As the name implies the emphasis here is on using the touch screen as the main method of control. The single-player game offers a choice of Main Game and Party Games. The Main Game offers the traditional style Super Monkey Ball levels where you'll have to guide your monkey in a ball to the goal before the time runs out. Like in the GameCube games you can practice any levels that have been unlocked. Party Games offers six party games. The games are Monkey Race, Monkey Fight, Monkey Bowling, Monkey Hockey, Monkey Wars and Monkey Golf. On the multiplayer side of things you can play up to three opponents using either the single game card or multiple cards. Should your opponents not have a copy of the game you'll only have access to Monkey Race, Monkey Wars and Monkey Hockey, whereas if everyone has a copy of the game you'll be able to play any of the six party games.
What's good about the game?
In terms of content there's quite a bit here. The main game offers just over 100 levels in all with 10 different worlds each offering 10 levels and there are a few bonus levels here too. The six party games are all unlocked to begin with and this means you'll be able to jump straight in and enjoy them in both single-player and multiplayer modes. The look and feel of the game is just as you would expect and it's surprising just how good the game looks given the technological limitations of the Nintendo DS. The four monkeys in the game AiAi, Meemee, Gongon and Baby all offer a slightly different feel. Gongon for instance feels heavier whilst Baby feels very light. The differences in Touch & Roll don't feel as great as they do on the GameCube games but it's still noticeable.
The pick of the party games is definitely Monkey Golf which is closely followed by Monkey Bowling. Monkey Golf offers stroke play and time attack (and also match play in multiplayer games) and features an intuitive swing gauge that is arguably the best seen in a DS golf game. Monkey Bowling is very similar to the Monkey Bowling that appeared in the original Super Monkey Ball and is just as entertaining.
What's not so good about the game?
The biggest disappointment with Touch & Roll is that when tight control is called for the analogue stick is found wanting. You'll move the stylus to the top of the touch screen to move forward, to the bottom to move backward and to the left and right to move left and right. Don't forget though that in the Super Monkey Ball series you actually move the very ground that your monkey stands on and not the actual ball itself. On the early levels the control is passable and you won't have any problems. As the levels become more complicated though delicate control is required and it's here that the cracks begin to appear and the level of control just isn’t sufficient. Thankfully you can put the stylus away and use the directional pad. Sure the main point of the game being on the DS suddenly goes but it's a more precise method of control. It's rather curious that you now get given an extra life for every 10 (and not 100) bananas that you collect. Maybe it's to compensate for the amount of times you'll fall off in the levels that require more precise control.
The party games force you to use the stylus but the only problem here is Monkey Race which just doesn't seem to handle that well at all and it would have much better had you been able to use the directional pad instead of the stylus. Aside from the aforementioned Monkey Golf and Monkey Bowling the other party games just aren't that good. Monkey Race suffers from poor control (as we've just mentioned). Monkey Wars feels like a Doom style shooter and uses the directional pad to move forward and backward (and also strafe). You'll have to tap the directional arrows with the stylus to move left and right and you'll also have to tap the screen to shoot. In all honesty it's gets tedious pretty quickly. The same could be said for Monkey Fight and Monkey Hockey. Even though these games offer more than one way to play, they just don't feel enjoyable enough to persevere with.
How does it look?
The game actually looks better than expected and the DS handles the 3D visuals very nicely. You'll notice that the monkeys are in 2D rather than 3D but this really isn't an issue and they look good anyway. That said though it's rather strange seeing 2D versions of AiAi, Gongon, Meemee and Baby. Quite a few of the level designs will look familiar to anyone who has played any of the previous Super Monkey Ball games, although even the most recognisable seem to have undergone some tweaks here and there. When you're playing the levels in the main game you'll be looking at the top screen for most of the time as it's here that you'll see your monkey moving around. With the party games it's the other way around and the lower screen will become the focus of your attention. Technically speaking the graphics are impressive and the 3D visuals are very good. Even during a hectic monkey race session, there's not even a hint of slowdown which is impressive.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll is fine for deaf gamers. All of the instructions are in text and thanks to the quality of the manual you won't be in any doubts about how to play any of the six party games. During the various levels in the main game your monkey will make their usual monkey noises. There aren't any captions for this but it doesn't cause any problems. You'll receive large text messages to notify you when you've earned an extra life and you've passed through the goal (although this is something you can't fail to notice) and on the whole there aren't really any problems.
Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll is disappointing. The disappointment stems not from the games content, although most of the party games could have been better, but from the inadequate touch screen control. The touch screen control just isn't good enough and the chances are that for the main game levels you'll opt to use the directional pad as it's a better method of control (although still not as good as a proper analogue stick). If you're a dedicated Super Monkey Ball fan you might appreciate what the game has to offer but the game is nowhere near as satisfying as either Super Monkey Ball or its sequel that appeared on the GameCube.
Overall Game Rating: 6.2/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll is a bit of a disappointment. Not in terms of content, although most of the party games could have been better, but in terms of the control that the touch screen offers. Using the stylus just isn't as good as it needs to be and you'll find yourself opting to use the directional pad wherever it's possible to do so.