Super Monkey Ball (GameCube) Review

By Ross Morley 04.06.2003

Review for Super Monkey Ball on GameCube

Anyone who's ever played one of those handheld games you get out of crap Christmas crackers where you have to roll a ball through a maze or into some holes by tilting the device will no doubt know how frustrating they can be. You would end up banging your head against a wall or, just forget the whole thing, chuck the game in the bin before stomping off to try and calm down. Well now something similarly devious has arrived in digital form. Prepare yourself for a frustrating (yet fun and addictive) experience with the super monkeys! They're so darn cute!

The idea of the main game in Super Monkey Ball is to reach the goal at the end of a level (which usually has no barriers of any sort) before the time runs out by rolling your favourite primate along it in its transparent sphere. Sounds incredibly simple and rather uninspiring, not to mention mad, does it not? Yet you'll soon realize that this game is no joke. It's very hard, but addictive. The joy and relief you'll feel when you make it through your most feared level in one piece is rarely felt in games. You'll swear, you'll throw your controller on the floor, you'll go through mental breakdowns but after you've had your little temper tantrum, the wickedly charming graphics and sound, together with the smart design of the levels will make you 'forgive' the game, and so off you'll go again – and again – and again. Control wise it’s incredibly simple with the control stick being the only thing you need to worry about touching. Instead of moving your monkey, you can tilt the level which has just the same effect, and the GameCube’s control stick is perfect for the job. It is so well crafted and in tune with the game mechanics that often, it will be instincts that tell you how much weight you need to put on the control stick if you are to survive a tricky situation. The A button also has a minor function of zooming your floor map in and out.

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball on GameCube

Most of the levels are short and sharp and there are 90 of them in all (excluding the Extra levels). They will throw what they can at you to prevent you from breaking the tape at the end of the floor. You'll encounter bumpers, jumps, moving platforms (many of these), not to mention the wafer thin ledges you must traverse. Despite there being so many levels in the game, the designs never repeat themselves making each level unique. A different strategy will be required for each floor if you are to tackle each one successfully. The fact that there is no real similarity between any of the levels makes you come back to them, as the designs never get tired.

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball on GameCube

This furious cycle is coupled with an ape-tastic multiplayer mode, with six different mini / party games on offer. The mini games are the more realistic of the two, with take ons of billiards, bowling and golf. Just think of sims of these sports with monkeys thrown in, and you're pretty much there. The party games are a little more off the wall, offering monkey fight (the chimps are in their balls bashing each other with oversized boxing gloves), monkey race (simple races with power ups) and monkey target (you fly through the air trying to land on targets in the sea and score points). The last of these is by far the most innovative of the three. Well thought out with power ups which can help you in your landing, and obstacles that will hinder your progress, monkey target is an example of what the minor modes in games should be like. Monkey Billiards is our favourite though. It's nicely presented with a cool soundtrack, and this is the one that will see the most daylight in your hours of gaming. And guess what? It's even better with a friend! All of the mini games feel refined and the excellent ball physics shown in the main game really help some of them reach their full potential.

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball on GameCube

Many reviews will tell you that the sound in the Super Monkey Ball games is the weak link in the chain. Incidentally, we actually think that the techno / futuristic style of tunes in the game aren't half bad. We've come not to expect wondrous compositions from puzzlers, what we look for instead is tunes that you can happily get along with whilst concentrating on playing the game, and Super Monkey Ball does just this. The music is completely inoffensive and quite cool.

The visuals show basic textures and a nice mix of colours. As is the case with sound, puzzle games are renowned for not scoring too heavily in the graphics department – a trait that is shown in Super Monkey Ball. The game needed to have a finely honed engine, and they have succeeded in this but subsequently the graphics received less attention. Generally though, it’s nice to look at and some levels show great reflection. When you tilt the level, the skyline above is shown on the surface of the floor, often giving it a very shiny and satisfying look. The backgrounds are simple but then, you’ll be too busy trying to stay in control of you monkey to admire the view!

In short, this is an excellent puzzler. Some will prefer it to Super Monkey Ball 2, some won’t. The ball physics are perfect, the cuteness is there but, as is critical with puzzle games, it will keep you hooked for a good while and has the potential for you and your friends to have some great multiplayer moments. Go bananas over getting it, but try not to go bananas when you fall off those spindly little ledges!

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

This was the start of the GameCube's show of quality. Why? Because it is everything that puzzlers on a Nintendo console are about – multiplayer thrills, challenge, originality, fun, fun, more fun and that elusive ingrediant that is so hard to come by – the ingrediant that keeps you playing long into the day. This, my fellow gamers, is why we love the Godsend that is Super Monkey Ball.


Amusement Vision







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (7 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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