I never played Super Monkey Ball enough to really get into it, but I did think that the concept of the game was good and what little I did play of it was good. Also, everyone I spoke to had something good to say about it.
Super Monkey Ball Jr. is the GBA port of the game and as you might expect it has had some features removed to make it work, the colours are not as vibrant, the characters are very, very small and there isn't a lot going on during gameplay.
The concept of the game is the same as the GameCube version. Get your monkey in a ball to the exit collecting as many bananas as you can in the shortest time. The levels get increasingly harder and more twists, turns, narrow bridges are introduced as you progress. I think the levels are well thought out and in the latter stages and the timing needs to be perfect. I did think that they could have added a few seconds to some levels, as you don't have any time to get some bananas without failing the level.
You have a choice of 4 characters with which to play the game, these being AiAi, Meemee, Baby or Gongon. I don't actually think there is any difference between them when you play or rather that I didn't notice a difference.
The games levels are split into Beginner, Advanced and Expert difficulties. The Beginner has 10 stages, which are really easy to complete, and I managed it within an hour or so. If you complete these without falling off at all you are offered the chance to play 3 more levels, which are far more difficult, with moving platforms and obstacles in your way.
Advanced is harder than Beginner with more levels, and can get very complex. Expert is way out there with 30 stages that are too complex to even begin to think about and the timing needs to be perfect, with narrow ledges and ramps you will end up battling all night against. Advanced and Expert also have the 3 extra levels if you manage to complete all stages without falling off, which I must say I have not done so far.
The controls are the games biggest failure, as long as you only want to go forwards or left/right you are fine but as soon as you want to turn around you have to fiddle with the pad until you're lucky or the camera decides to swing around and you can press forward.
The problem with the controls is that if you press down to go back, the camera does not swing around quick enough, then when it does your still pressing down so you end up going back on yourself with the camera correcting again. Before you know it you're back where you started.
To help you through the stages is a practice mode. Which allows you to practice any stage, which you unlocked. Practice mode is especially good for trying out stages you simply can't complete or to help you complete stages you have done already faster. Practice is also a great way to help master the controls, which as I explained above are annoying to say the least.
Besides the normal levels, the game includes 3 bonus games, which can be unlocked once you have acquired 2500 or more game points (each bonus game requires 2500 game points to be unlocked) You can choose from Monkey Bowling, which is fun for a short while but gets annoying quickly after you realise you're utter crap at it. Then you have Monkey Duel, which involves punching the other monkeys off the board. This involves more luck than skill and is a poor game. Finally the best of the lot is Monkey Golf where you have to get your Monkey in a Ball into the hole in as little shots as possible. This is by far the best bonus game.
The in-game graphics are actually nice, while the backgrounds are not as nice as the GC version and neither are the levels although you don't really notice this while your playing the game. You also don't get the minimap, which would have been nice but considering everything else on screen they probably didn't have any room to fit it.
Overall SMB Jr. is great. The levels are nicely planned out and the game is definitely worth getting. The controls do let it down slightly but with time you'll begin to understand them, definitely a game that will keep you playing for ages.