Super Monkey Ball for the Wii is such an amazing piece of shit I don't know where to start. First, there are the controls. It starts out reasonable enough when you hear it: you tilt your controller the way you want the plane of the map to tilt and your little monkey-in-a-ball rolls freely according to how it's pulled down the slope you just created. The problem comes in the implementation. The game is just not sensitive enough consistently enough to how you are tilting the controller to make it at all playable. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. It almost seems there is a per-level sensitivity setting that changes from one level to the next without telling you that. Plus, there seems to be something in the game that forgets if you are tilting a particular direction. It gets to the point that you can be holding the controller tilted so far forward that it is just about vertical and the game remains damn near level!
Next there is the ball your monkey is rolling around in. It's got to be modeled after one of those super-high-bounce balls. I swear, no matter what you hit on the level, this damn monkey ball goes bouncing off away from it as though launched from a canon. I've tried going ultra-slow (not practical since there is a timer on the levels) and even the most harmless looking obstacle sends me flying.
Then there is the level construction. Every level I've done so far (over 25 of them) can be boiled down to the same thing: a ribbon twisting through space. That's all well and good but when you add in the bounciness of the ball and the unresponsiveness of the controls, and now you're supposed to keep it on a ribbon with almost no walls to speak of? I highly doubt the game designers ever tried to actually *play* this game after they put it together. I've wasted over an hour per level (mind you, these levels have timers in them so they don't take more than two minutes per try) sometimes trying to get past them simply because the game is so damn unplayable.
Oh, and let's not forget the horrid soundtrack. It's cutesy enough, sure. and each group of levels (they are grouped into 'worlds' of roughly ten levels each) has it's own 'music', but even if you go through it passing each level on the first try hearing the same 15 second loop over and over gets a little tiring. This, plus they crank the system volume to max and there doesn't seem to be any way to turn it down. When I start my system, there is a Wii background music for the main menu, and it is nice and subdued with my TV set to 10. Playing Wii Sports and Zelda both are perfectly reasonable volume-wise also with my TV set to 10. For Monkey Ball I have to turn the TV down to 2 or 3 for it to be at an equivalently reasonable loudness.
Ah, yes, and there are the menus. It took me forever to even figure out if the game *had* a menu at all. None of the buttons seemed to do anything (other than the jump button). I was desperately trying to figure out how to pause the game and couldn't discover anything. I eventually gave up and read the manual that comes with it and it told me the secret. It uses the same button as any other game for the 'pause' menu (the 'plus' button, for the curious) but you have to HOLD IT DOWN to pause. Gone are the days, long established in console gaming since the late 1980s, where a simple tap of the pause button paused the game instantly and brought up the pause menu (or whatever the game did for 'pause'). Now, with Super Monkey Ball on the Wii, Sega decided that what gamers really want is a pause button they have to hold down, thus allowing the action to continue for about a second or two before the game actually paused. Oh, and let's not forget that pressing the pause button is likely to tilt the controller somewhat, and murphy's law would of course have it that this would be one of the few times the game is responsive enough to have that slight tilt actually alter the way your monkey ball is rolling.
There is also the pathetically poor camera implementation. One would think that, for a video game, what is displayed on the screen is rather important. Given that, one would expect that if the camera moves around, it should make a point to always keep the character and the immediate surroundings on the screen. But then, one would have also expected tapping the 'pause' button would pause the game -- we saw how well that worked here. Yes, Sega decided in their very-finite wisdom that in Monkey Ball the camera would be allowed to move on it's own, in no way controllable by the user, and would quite often pick angles and zoom levels such that either the immediate area around the character or the character itself, or both, are completely obscured from view. The system has a secondary controller that is unused for this game, would it really have been that hard to allow the player to plug it in and use the analogue stick to rotate the camera around the character and perhaps use the two buttons on the secondary controller to zoom in and out? Was it that difficult to implement or is there simply no one at Sega with enough brain cells to ponder such deep ideas? My guess is the latter, more than the former, explains this lacking.
It would certainly explain the rest of this piece of crap game.
The success or failure of a gaming console depends entirely on the games. If the games are not there, or if they suck, the console will be seen as a failure. Nintendo saw this with the GameCube. Sure, it had some very fun games, but not enough to make it anything other than last-place. If my early experiences with Wii games is any indicator, Nintendo hasn't learned their lesson. I'm glad to see the potential in this system. It really could work wonders for gaming. I'm just very disheartened by how the games so far botch the job in every way possible.
My Zelda review is forthcoming, I'm just taking longer on it because I am so deeply scarred by how big a let-down it was that it's hard to put into words.