Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Super Monkey Ball Adventure

If ever there was a game franchise inspired by the combination of two randomly selected words, it's Monkey Ball, the series that stars primates trapped inside clear plastic balls. With their cinnamon-bun ears and cheerily dilated eyes, the old gang is back in the game's latest installment, Super Monkey Ball Adventure. AiAi and his eclectic band (Who would put a baby monkey in a ball? The cruelty!) are back to roll against the forces of evil—or at least the forces of general unpleasantness.

Super Monkey Ball Adventure's biggest new feature is its story mode. Past Monkey Ball games have proven time and again that the premise is absurd, but also absurdly fun. Unfortunately, it turns out that being a monkey in a ball with a purpose is dull. Given these bothersome missions and annoying controls, plus only a sprinkling of redeeming mini-games, even an ape would be bored by story mode.

Luckily, all is not lost. Six party games offer enough silliness to keep players entertained, even without a party. "Target" has some physics issues, and "Cannon" can get confusing, but "Fly" (Split open your ball and use the half-shells as wings!) is a classic. Plus nothing beats "Fight," a chance to attack opposing monkey-balls with giant boxing gloves. The other Monkey Ball mainstay, stage puzzles, has resurfaced as a mission mode. Navigate paths through the sky with delicate precision, then watch your monkey dance after crossing the finish line. Dance, monkey, dance!

Beyond the game: Monkey Ball's monkeys don't speak English, just a gratingly adorable gibberish. If you can understand them, you've been playing too long.

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Worth playing for: Often, the lives of many identical monkeys must be sacrificed for a single puzzle. Roll over the edge and watch your monkey "fall out"—waving his arms helplessly inside his ball and disappearing into eternity.

Frustration sets in when: Past Monkey Balls have let players select puzzles from a menu. Adventure only offers sets of puzzles ranked by difficulty. Get stuck on one, and there's nowhere else to go.

Final judgment: Thumbs up for monkeys in balls. Thumbs down for these. Head elsewhere for your Monkey Ball kicks.

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