Before we look at the game, it's probably best if we take a moment to look at the console itself. On Saturday i was one of many people who managed to lay their hands on the Game Cube, and the first big surprise came when i opened the box. The Game Cube is tiny but stylish, even down to the 'camp' carrying handle. As for the system itself it houses four joypad ports, which makes multiplayer gaming cheap(er) and also two memory card slots. A 4 mb memory card will hold 59 save blocks, most current titles seem to use 3 blocks as a minimum so there is enough space to hold the data from several games.
Most people will know that a sytems control pad can help decide the success of a console. Now the control pad for the Game Cube seems to fit somewhere between the n64 pad, the dual shock and the xbox controller. It feels great and seems to fit perfectly in your hands, the shoulder buttons seem very odd at first but that's due to the fact that they're a very springy analogue set-up. The one thing that concerns me about the pad is that I cannot see how a first person shooter would work with the pad, the twin sticks on the PS2's dual shock are ideal but the Game Cube controller seems to lack that kind of functionality. With the release of Timesplitters 2 we will see how this is carried out in the future. One other slight quibble is the fact that as your hand is at a slight angle you occasionally find yourself hitting the wrong button, but I'm sure I'll get used to it with time.
The key feature is the systems portability, its so light and small that its increcibly easy to sling it in your bag and take it around your mates house, unlike some other consoles on the market.
In summary the Game Cube is an extremely pleasant surprise, that may help Nintendo shake its reputation of being a 'kids only' console and take up its place amongst the PS2 and the Xbox.
Now before we go any further there is a point that i must make very clear, this game is about monkeys in balls. Before any of you phone the RSPCA, no monkeys were harmed during the making of the game, in fact the little primates seem to be really enjoying themselves.
Okay so whats the game all about? I hear you cry. Well actually the idea behind the game is extremely simple, you must get your monkey from one end of a platform to another, by tilting the entire level and avoiding the many hazards that a level has. This may sound simple and boring but in fact the game is fun and addictive. Anyone who was addicted to clasics such as Marble Madness will also love the game. There are three levels of difficulty with the highest being extremely difficult.
This may make the game shallow, it is, that is until you play the game multiplayer. There are six modes of play (three of which are unlockable from the main game) monkey fight, monkey race, monkey targets, monkey billiards, monkey bowling and monkey golf. These modes are superbly executed and work so well. Even the main game can be played in multiplayer mode.
Monkey fight starts were bomberman left off. Its frantic (up to) four player mayhem. Attached to your ball is a fist and all you have to do is knock your opponent from the platform to gain points. Every so often three crates are dropped down each housing a powerup. The power ups are big fist, long fist and vortex. So after a few powerups you can have a fist that takes up a good portion of the level.
Monkey targets its as bizzare as monkey fight. First of all you must roll your ball down a slope and up a ramp, as you are launched into the air you tap a button to open the ball, which turns into a set of wings, you must then glide onto a target platform and you score points depending on where you land. Like the rest of the game it sounds simple but is actually imense fun.
Monkey race is a standard race affair that sees you tiny chimp hurtling round a half piep circuit grabbing weapons and blasting the opposition.
Monkey billiards, bowling and golf are pretty much self explanatory and the crazy golf course is a great laugh.
The multiplayer games can also be playedagainst the computer, but its not the same as playing against a human opponent.
The graphics in Super Monkey Ball can only be described as amazing. The colours stand out and are extremely crisp, special lighting effects and such are used throughout the game and the textures are the best i've seen on a console (those of you who have seen the billiards table will know what i mean).
The sound meanwhile does the job and is quite forgettable, but thats not such a bad thing with a game like this.
The game is a brilliant launch title which will help give people a reason to buy the Game Cube, though it won't be much fun if your a Billy no mates.