Arriving not so much hot on the heels of the Gamecube release but rather trailing years behind it comes the PS2 incarnation of Segas fiendishly addictive party game series Monkey Ball in the form of Monkey Ball Deluxe.
Rather than release the games separately Sega has kindly collected up every pad-smashing puzzle and friend-smashing minigame alike from the previous titles in the series and packed it all into a single game and then thrown in some more on top.
The concept in the main game mode of Monkey Ball Deluxe is deceivingly simple, you must roll a ball containing a monkey to the goal of each level by using the left analogue stick to move around, it doesn't sound like much but what hasn't been portrayed in that last sentence is how fiendishly addictive this whole setup is. As each level will take no longer than a minute to complete there is plenty of one-more-go potential as you will never have to slog through massive amounts of the game to get back to where you failed last time around, the quick nature of the levels combined with the pick up and play gameplay also means that the game lends itself perfectly to some pass-the-pad gaming if you have friends round with each person taking a crack at the level before passing the controller on upon either their success or failure.
The 300 or so levels are divided into a series of worlds with each world containing twenty levels, the levels in a world can be completed in the order of your choosing so if you find yourself really stuck on a level or two you can always try to clear other levels of the world first and then come back to the hard parts after, to pass onto the next world you will need to clear the required number of levels.
The first few levels do lull the player into a false sense of security as they can be completed with no real thought or skill whatsoever, I found myself thinking "Whoa, this is easy, I'll be through every level in no time at this rate! I hope it gets harder" at first and then it does indeed get harder. The later levels will see you try to navigate absurdly thin seeming walkways, awkwardly moving platforms and intricate bends and twists in the course all within about one minute which many players will fail at many times but will nevertheless be willing to try again over and over as the Monkey Ball one-more-go factor kicks in and keeps you playing.
Successfully navigating all of the 300-ish levels will require a very steady hand indeed.
Monkey Ball Deluxe is presented in the most vibrant and upbeat way imaginable, everything that comes on the screen looks bright and cute and even the monkeys 'victory' animations seems to have been engineered for maximum cuteness too. The graphics are also very bold and solid looking with no glitches or texturing problems in sight and all in all the games visuals are pleasing to the eye although I suppose your appreciation of them will depend on how much of a stomach you have for bright colourful cuteness, the sight of the chequerboard levels whizzing past and tilting can get a bit hard on the eyes though after a while.
The vibe created by the visuals is complemented and supported by the music which plays a series of nineties sounding techno-dance loops - all as upbeat and happy as the graphics are and fortunately the music does not get annoying really and you may find odd sections of it popping into your head throughout the day after a heavy session of level clearing.
The reasoning behind our four monkey heroes GonGon, Baby, AiAi and MeeMee having to leave behind their usual monkey business and go rolling off is that their villages bananas have all been stolen by Dr Bad Boon, these bananas can be seen dotted around the levels for you to reclaim, in practice these bananas serve as a way for you to gain extra lives by collecting a hundred of them in some of the games competitive modes.
Being a party game package Monkey Ball Deluxe comes with its share of minigames, these simple but fun quick games include playing golf or tennis using the monkeys as balls, playing ten pin bowling with them and some other custom games, there are all twelve minigames included from previous Monkey Ball titles for you to enjoy. Some of the minigames can be quite long and drawn out to play especially if all four players are involved but all of them are good fun to play and can be as addictive as the main game mode. Fans of party games will not be disappointed by the range and diversity of the minigames on offer here.
In conclusion Monkey Ball Deluxe is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for something different from the usual slew of shooters and driving sims that seem to flood the PS2 shelves, the main single player levels will have you coming back for more over and over trying to see the next world of levels, both the minigames and the main single player levels make the game even more fun if you have a couple of friends around, as said earlier the main game mode lends itself perfectly to being played by many people taking turns as each turn should last no longer than a minute.
If Monkey Ball Deluxe doesn't sound like a game you would enjoy having in your collection it is still worth a rent if you have people coming over and you fancy sticking on a good party game for entertainment.