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babylonian @ 09:05 pm: So I picked up Super Monkey Ball: Touch and Roll today. I've only had it a few hours, but despite a few minor problems, I'm pretty happy with it.






Pros:

+ Stylus control is awesome. While the jury's still out on whether or not it matches a thumbstick in terms of feeling natural, it definitely is an improvement over the D-pad controls we saw in SMB Jr. My personal belief on why the whole "digital thumbstick" concept works in Touch and Roll and why it didn't work as well in Super Mario 64 DS is because as soon as you move the stylus, you see the level tilt, and get a sort of immediate feedback. In SM64DS, you had to detect the movement of your character. That and there was no constant center for SM64DS's joystick; it's boundaries followed your thumb. But I digress; the touchscreen control in this game is definitely much easier to grow accustomed to than any other DS game that uses the stylus for 3D navigation.

+ Golf Minigame has been improved. Of all the minigames, this one probably benefitted the most from stylus control. You actually have to swing the club, and the force of the swing both depends on how high you lift the club and how fast you swing. It's an altogether satisfying system.

+ Saving replays. I'm pretty impressed that this feature made the transition onto a handheld. It's nice when you have a good run or take a particularly clever shortcut to be able to save it and show it off later, so it's a fun feature.

+ Gorgeous. This game's graphics are leaps and bounds above Super Monkey Ball Jr. Seriously, this is eerily close to console quality, right down to the detailed and active backdrops. It's definitely easy on the eyes.

+ Single-cartridge Multiplayer. I love it when handheld games include this feature. One of the biggest hurdles the multiplayer scene has had as far as handheld gaming is concerned is that everyone needs to own a copy of the game. Thanks to the current generation of game systems, you can send the required parts necessary for a multiplayer battle over to a friend's device and play with it. While I haven't toyed with this feature yet in SMBDS, according to the manual, DS Download Play supports Monkey Race, Monkey Wars (the new FPS), and Monkey Hockey. I'll give it a try tomorrow and report back with my impressions in the comments field later.

Cons:

- Pause Menu Options. No matter what gameplay mode you're in, you only have two choices: Continue or Quit. Many staples of the SMB series are missing, most notably Retry, but also nice feature like the ability to rotate and view the level, and the option to save your game. Seriously, even Super Monkey Ball Jr had the foresight to include an option where you can save your game and resume later. It's noticably missing from this one, though.

- No minimap. This is probably the strangest omission in the game. The criticism people always make about the DS is that the second screen is invariably used to store something unnecessary, like a world map. Of course, Monkey Ball already has a world map, so transitioning it to DS would be pretty obvious, right? Apparently not. There is no map to be found in SMBDS. The bottom screen could house a map, but it's used for a useless (albeit cute) sprite of your monkey, whose ball you use to determine where center is on your digital joystick. Just a strange thing to leave out. This could be easily remedied the same way they did in SMBJR by having a pause option to look at the map, but hey, they left that out too.

- Practice mode descriptions. When you're selecting a level to retry in practice mode, the only description you're given of the level is it's title. You don't get an image of what the level looks like, just an all-caps title that it was given. In order to see a level to practice, you either have to have its name memorized or just 'guess and check' until you find the level you want to play.

- Underdeveloped D-Pad controls. Of course there are gonna be people out there who don't want to use the touchscreen, and for them, there's not a lot of flexibility. You're stuck using the d-pad, and while it works, there's (of course) no subtlety to it. This problem was remedied in SMBJR with the addition of holding 'A' to make tilts more sharp and holding 'B' to make tilts more subtle and slow. This is what made Super Monkey Ball work on GBA using a digital input, and it should have been implemented in this one. That would help those transitioning from D-Pad to touchscreen in feeling that touchscreen is simply an addition and the old SMBJR controls are being built upon, not simply replaced. However, for those willing to make the worthwhile adjustment to stylus control, this is a non-issue.

- Strange Minigame Omissions. It seems to me that Monkey Billiards would lend itself to the dual-screen, touch-sensitive format more than any other SMB minigame would. Apparently not, as Sega left it out entirely. Also noticeably gone: Monkey Target. Probably my favorite of the Monkey Ball minigames, steering yourself to a target using the stylus in the game's gorgeously rendered 3D would've been heaven. What a shame.

- Monkey Wars for righties only. Yup. I'm left-handed, and in the Monkey Wars FPS minigame, you use the D-Pad to move forward, backward, and strafe left and right. You fire your weapon by tapping the screen where you want to fire, and you drag your stylus over a line at the bottom of the screen to rotate left and right. It's as awkward as it sounds, and even moreso for those of us who aren't used to holding the stylus in our right hands. This is sort of why I was hesitant to pick up a DS as a left-handed person, but this minigame has been the first instance of me encountering any issue with it.

??? (Not pros, but not cons. Just observations.)

~ New look for the franchise. The characters and art style are now more kiddie than they ever were before, if that's even possible. Every time you start up the game, in order to reach the main menu, you have to (and I mean you are literally required to) poke Aiai in the ass before you're allowed access. Seriously. As far as I'm concerned, this is not a good direction to take the series in, but to each their own.



~ Ticking sound removed. Since it's always been part of the franchise, it's never bugged me a ton, but a lot of people hate the ticking of the timer in prior Super Monkey Ball games. That has been completely removed from this one. It's almost a bit disorienting at first, because hardcore SMB players sort of end up subconciously relying on those 15, 30, or 60 dings to gauge how much time is left. In this version, it's up to you to glance at the timer on the bottom screen in order to gauge time. However, you do get a beep per second when you reach the last 10 seconds of the countdown timer, so that's beneficial. Also noteworthy: the announcer is gone. So there's no spoken dialogue in this game.

~ 10 Bananas = 1UP. Yup. A mere ten bananas is all it takes to get an extra life. It makes things significantly easier, but then again, I think we can all agree that the other Super Monkey Ball games' requirement of 100 bananas per 1UP was way too steep. Still, though, hearing that satisfying "1UP!" noise on nearly every stage almost...cheapens it, y'know?

~No more 'Score Totaling' screen. That part is completely skipped. From what I've been able to tell, when you complete a level your score goes up by the amount of time remaining on the level x 100. However, there doesn't seem to be any bonus for completing a level with more than 50% time remaining, or for getting every banana, or anything like that. Also, the amount of points you gain per level doesn't seem to include hundredths of a second like it used to. Hmm.


I hope I was useful in deciding whether or not the game's worth your time. Again, I've only had a few hours with it, and the main game is pure, raw, unadulterated Super Monkey Ball fun. It's at least justified itself as a rental so far.

-Babylonian

Comments

[User Picture]
From:reversegecko
Date:February 27th, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks, good review. I'm very happy the replay feature made it, I think that's one of the most important features in monkey ball.

When it comes to control.. I hear very very different things about this game. Some say the control is great, some say it's bad. The last couple posts I've read about this game on the internet said that the d-pad control was actually very good and better than the stylus. Granted, these were people who can fullspead any level in smb jr, so perhaps it's a matter of what you're accustomed to.

In any case I'ma but it as soon as the stores open this morning.
[User Picture]
From:babylonian
Date:February 27th, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Good choice. For $30, it's definitely worth it. If you're a SMB fan at all, this game is worth getting. I can't emphasize enough how much I like stylus control, and if you're not in a situation that lends itself to stylus use, the D-Pad is a-OK.
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