First Looks// Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll

Posted 4 Aug 2009 17:32 by
A new day, a new Super Monkey Ball - in this case Step & Roll. The series has enjoyed great success on home consoles since its GameCube début (itself a port from the original arcade game) due to its accessible-yet-challenging game-play. What could possibly be more enjoyable than rolling a simian in a hamster ball around 3D mazes in a Marble Madness stylee?

That awesomeness earned several sequels for AiAi and company, including the controversial Wii launch title Banana Blitz. Step & Roll takes the motion control aspects of Nintendo?s console to another level, by utilising the Wii Balance Board. SEGA treated me to a sneak peek at an early build to demonstrate the first few stages using this new method.

The results were quite accurate, if a bit iffy due to the Balance Board?s configuration not being finalised just yet. I wasn?t able to play it for myself but it seems very much like the Monkey Ball you know and love, with control pad tilting replicated by physical tilting.

Leaning forwards, backwards, left or right will shift the angle of the game world in that direction, indirectly moving your monkey around. Doing a small lift with the feet allows your ball to jump, while alongside the regular HUD icons a Balance Board meter in the corner of the screen shows your current weight of balance.

Five basic mazes were showcased. These will gradually introduce the player to the Balance Board controls; straight-line courses, big oval arenas and largely obvious paths to the goal line meant a pretty huge margin for error.

Toshihiro Nagoshi?s development team have even included little grooves and ridges to guide you along during the early levels.

It really does seem like the casual player is being taken care of, but I had no way of seeing how later levels will proceed to tax more advanced players. I was told that, in true Super Monkey Ball style, the game would get more challenging as you progress. Apparently you can also control Step & Roll using the Wii Remote just like in Banana Blast (which makes sense for things like multiplayer), but Sega seems really keen on downplaying that in favour of the Balance Board.

Super Monkey Ball is known just as much for its manic multi-player mini-games as it is for its main single-player, and Step & Roll seems to have this covered very well. I was introduced to three party games in this demonstration: 'Red Light, Green Light' is a motion-based take on 'What?s The Time Mr. Wolf?', with your movement inching you closer to the goal and penalties dished out for moving when watched.

'Seesaw Roll' has you balancing on see-saws to reach a goal at the bottom of the stage, collecting bananas on the way.

The classic 'Monkey Race' was shown on a simple oval map, with leaning controlling your speed and ?hops' activating power ups.

With this short and sweet demonstration, it?s difficult to draw any solid conclusions about the game, other than the fact that it?s Super Monkey Ball with the added bonus of tilting about a bit. It will be interesting to get my hands (or feet) on the game to see how accurate the Balance Board really is once calibrated.

If Banana Blast proved anything, it that the Wii?s motion controls are no real replacement for the perfection of the Game Cube's analogue stick. If the same is true of the Balance Board, hopefully the stage design will compensate appropriately so that gameplay is fun and interesting rather than frustrating.

Time will tell how it pans out ? until then, let?s rejoice that one of the best puzzle games starring a monkey is returning to our screens.

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JKR 4 Aug 2009 19:02
Banana Blitz controlled infinitely better than any of the Gamecube titles (single player) and as a result became extremely easy to many veterans to the series. If you found the analogue stick more accurate, you probably just didn't adjust to the tilt control, which was superior after being mastered.

Looking forward to the new game! Here's hoping Monkey Target is un-broken from SMB:BB and returns to SMB2 form.
Svend Joscelyne 4 Aug 2009 22:18
@JKR Yeah, Banana Blitz can be a bit of a love it or hate it game, really. It could very well be more accurate than the Gamecube stick, but like you said it takes some mastering - a lot more mastering than the GC originals.

Although SMB2 was incredibly difficult to the point of frustration, so I'll give you that. :)

Indeed, here's hoping we get a proper Monkey Target! I did see a 'Monkey Fight' in the menus too (never got to see it though) so I think the staples are definitely making a comeback in some way.
TigerUppercut 21 Aug 2009 17:24
I'm in.

And I have to disagree with JKR, the GameCube original was far easier to control than Blitz, especially for veterans. I've been looking out for a Naomi cabinet containing SMB for my first (in the past ten years, at least) arcade project. I think I'll end up getting one of these:

And find the kit, which is a (fairly steep IMO) $400 or so.
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