Sega's Super Monkey Ball franchise hasn't evolved much since its debut in 2001. And, with the exception of support for the Wii Balance Board, not much has changed in Super Monkey Ball: Step And Roll.
We got a chance to go hands-on and feet-on with the Wii game at Tokyo Game Show to see just what differentiates it from its predecessors. It can be controlled with only a Wii Remote like previous Wii entry Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz but can also be steered by shifting your weight, feet planted firmly on the Balance Board. That, as you might suspect, is not nearly as easy or precise as previous control schemes.
But that doesn't mean the Balance Board controlled Super Monkey Ball isn't fun. It may be frustrating fun—at least at first—but the tried and true monkey ball tilting mechanics remain intact. The goal is still to get your monkey of choice to the finish line, picking up bananas along the way. And fortunately, the earlier levels that we played seemed to be designed with the less accurate control scheme in mind.
During our play through of the first dozen levels, the grooves carved into the platforms—one of them shaped like a Dreamcast swirl—helped to guide our monkey and the railings bordering each platform saved MeeMee, AiAi, GonGon and Baby from many deaths. But if previous Super Monkey Ball titles are any indication, the difficulty will ramp up. Hopefully, so will our balance board skills.
Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll has another unique feature, a two-player co-op mode that lets a second player join in the monkey balling fun using a Wii Remote to shoot at on-screen obstacles. The primary player still controls the monkey—technically, the world the monkey ball exists on—with the other taking shots at objects. It's not the deepest mechanic, but can add some frenetic fun and communication to the game.
Out of obligation, we assume, Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll comes with a batch of new multiplayer mini-games, only a handful of which we got to test out. Like mini-games tend to be, they're light and fluffy fun, but may not be the main attraction.
Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll is slated for an early 2010 release on the Wii. Plenty of time for Nintendo to sell a few more million Wii Fit Balance Boards and make the game a success.