When SEGA decided that monkeys should be placed in balls for a video game, they somehow managed to hit gold. While on paper Super Monkey Ball appears to be the kind of game that would be niche driven, the reality is the complete opposite. Super Monkey Ball is one of the biggest franchises and names in games today and it was only a matter of time before the Nintendo SD got the game. That time is now and not only has SEGA ported the game, they've done a fantastic job giving those who are addicted to the little fury monkeys in balls the chance to play on the go.
For those who haven't seen the franchise before (i.e. If you were still in your mothers womb, I mean come on, this franchise is huge!) the premise of the game could not be simpler. Basically, you take a monkey in a ball on a number of race courses aiming to get to the end before the time finishes. Simple right? It would be if the game didn't have moving platforms, jumps and other obstacles to avoid. The time limit also makes it all the more harder.
There have been a few changes for the DS version, mainly stemming from the control system. However there have been some other changes as well. The stylus is of course the main one. You can use the DPAD to control the monkey but by far the best way is the stylus due to the precision control that you can have. On the lower screen a cartoon style picture of the particular monkey is displayed and moving the stylus on the image moves the ball or tilts the environment, whichever way you want to look at it.
In many aspects there is not much new about the DS version other than aforementioned stylus control. The game contains over one hundred puzzles and one of the more interesting additions is limited lives. On each puzzle you get a set number of chances to complete it. You can gain more chances by collecting a number of bananas but other than that it really remains the same game. One thing we found a little difficult until using the stylus was controlling the monkey. The game seems to have far more reactive controls than the PS2 and Xbox which, with quick touches of the DPAD, result in almost 180 degrees of turning angle which is really unplayable on the more difficult puzzles.
The mini games are back although some will be disappointed with them. For a start there is only six to choose from. With that said, SEGA have seen fit to unlock them all from the start which lessens the need for the puzzle section of the game. The four games are monkey race, monkey fight (boxing), monkey Ten Pin Bowling as well as two new ones in Monkey Air Hockey and Monkey Wars which places the characters in a maze where they have to find each other. The mini games are cool and for those with friends with the game, yes you can play them wirelessly.
One of the interesting aspects of Hockey is that it will be very hard to see that particular mini game on another system. It uses the system extensively as you have to draw your paddle and then move it around rather than have a set size. It works quite well. Another change is that as the paddle gets hit it shatters and you have to draw another one. The golf game is now controlled by the stylus as well for the swing back, a bit like Nintendo's recently released Golf DS game.
The visuals of the game are quite well done with the developers realising that a more cartoon look should be used on the DS due to its limited graphics power. However they have managed to recreate the look and feel of Monkey Ball perfectly. The puzzles are quite hard, but there is not a point where they ramp the difficulty up to much and the game progresses quite well without becoming to frustrating.
Super Monkey Ball Touch and Roll pretty much gives us what we expected; a fairly accomplished Monkey Ball game for the DS which finally brings the little monkeys to handheld on the new generation consoles. The developers have done an excellent job bringing the game to a system with less power and fans of the series will obviously pick this one up, but it's also an excellent introduction to the crazy world of the super monkeys for new comers.