Super Monkey Ball 2
Without a doubt the best GameCube launch title was Super Monkey Ball. The enjoyment you gained from a game where you manoeuvred a monkey in a ball around increasingly difficult levels was quite simply amazing. The game not only had a very addictive single player game but also had some great multiplayer party games that were great to play. Well with the amazing success of this novel title, it was going to be a certainty that a sequel would follow and about six months after it was launched in the US, the game finally arrives in the UK.
Of course you would think that there isn't too much that the developers could have done to improve upon the original game, which is absolutely true. The changes come in the form of a single player story mode and a greater number of party games. This time around the party games include Tennis, Soccer, Race*, Target*, Bowling*, Billiards*, Dog Fight, Golf*, Shot, Baseball, Fight* and Boat Race (* shows the games that are initially unlocked). There are 12 games in all and 6 of these need to be unlocked by the points you gain in the single player story and challenge mode.
The single player story mode centres around Aiai, Meemee, Baby and Gongon and their efforts to defeat the evil Dr Bad-Boon. The story mode has 10 different worlds and each world will have 10 levels for you to complete in any order that you wish. You don't get a 'Game Over' in story mode as you continue to play until you've had enough. The idea is just to complete the worlds.
Should you want a change from Story mode you can either practice the levels or take part in the Challenge mode which is similar to the single player mode in the original game. You can choose either beginner, advanced, expert challenges (there is also a master mode that is initially hidden). If you complete the levels without using a continue you'll be able to play the bonus levels.
The biggest disappointment for me came with the single player levels. In the original game the levels felt like they gradually increased in difficulty and the further you progressed the more difficult the levels became. In SMB 2 though this isn't the case. A lot of the levels are just far too easy to complete and you'll zip through most of the single player levels in no time. There doesn't seem much call for skill in a fair percentage of the levels. There are plenty of levels where you seem to complete them by luck rather than skilful manoeuvres. To top it all off, there are a handful of levels that just seem plain impossible. As I said earlier there doesn't seem a natural progression in the difficulty of the levels. Don't get me wrong the single player game is still very good but it doesn't compare to the original game's single player levels.
Most gamers are going to be buying this game for its party games and while SMB 2 is truly a great party game, I couldn't help feel disappointed with some of the new additions and modifications that have been made to the original games. Boat Race for instance has a hideous control scheme where you have to hammer on the rather stodgy L & R buttons with R rowing left and L rowing right. Target has been made simultaneous rather than turn based and therefore it's now a split-screen game. This is fine on a large TV but on the 20" TV that I used it was just too awkward. Monkey Golf has been transformed from a Crazy Golf game to one that's almost impossible without a great deal of practice. I was really looking forward to Soccer but it's a big disappointment with no real technique involved. Best of all has to be Tennis which is especially entertaining in doubles mode but will provide a stiff challenge in single player mode too. A lot of the above may seem a little negative but when you consider all 12 games on the whole it's a very satisfying multiplayer component.
Graphically the game has been improved with the biggest difference being the quality of the backgrounds. Some of the backgrounds in the original game where a little empty of detail but this time around it's obvious that the developers have learnt how to get more out of the Cube. As with the first game the whole thing remains silky smooth and you can once again switch to 60Hz mode if you want to experience the game at the full rate of 60fps.
There are absolutely no problems at all for deaf gamers with SMB 2. All of the cutscenes in the Story mode are subtitled, the speech is only gibberish anyway, and all the instructions and tutorial messages are given in text. The font that has been used is very large and very easy to read, even when you are a distance away from the TV. The subtitles in the Story mode are black text placed in white speech bubbles and as a result the clarity is first class.
Super Monkey Ball 2 is a great game but for me personally it falls a little short of what I was expecting. I felt the Story mode wasn't needed and the levels didn't have the magic of the ones in the first game. Still if you're buying this as a party game then you'll be thrilled with the increased amount of games, and along with Mario Party 4, it's the best multiplayer game on the Cube.
Game Rating: 8.0/10