This is a weird one, but it deserves respect and acknowledgement all the same. This is near and dear to me, as I’ve been researching Super Monkey Ball as of late for a critical analysis series I’m working on, and I think it’d be a perfect subject for RetroNight. Plus, it’s been a while since we’ve had one of these, so let’s get right to it.
Super Monkey Ball is certainly a game of rare form. Developed for the GameCube and published by Sega now fifteen years ago, it’s important to consider what a game like this is really capable of doing. A surprising hit, this title received vastly positive reviews, and is now part of a longstanding series of games.
Super Monkey Ball is a game that depends almost entirely on the types of emotions that can be evoked by the aesthetic. The level design is brilliant and precise, don’t get me wrong, but where the game really excels is in its ability to awaken certain feelings within a person using particles, screen shake, and other game feel elements.
Essentially, the primary mechanic of the game is tilting the level so that the monkey within the ball is moving at the proper pace. Each puzzle is designed in a way that requires you to properly utilize momentum and the proper angles of tilts in order to avoid falling off of the puzzle. Obstacles don’t take the from of enemies but rather, walls, hills, and other environmental hazards that require you to be attentive.
Every single time you near an edge, your monkey expresses concern, their body starting to contort into a shape of trying to regain balance. The anxiety is incredibly real as players are put in situations where even the slightest of movements can knock you off the edge. The way mazes are broken up dictates exactly how much that anxiety is able to build before you’re given a brief moment of cool-down. Subtle additions such as a brief replay of your performance, and the excited celebration of both your monkey and the game announcer gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself for the next event.
Super Monkey Ball had a major impact on the game market, and how fitting that it would be available around the time of the GameCube. Here’s to hoping more games like that arrive in the future, changing the face of the industry in ways we never quite expect.