Review: Super Monkey Ball Jr. (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we go for the banana’s in the Game Boy Advance game Super Monkey Ball Jr. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 2002.

We have a small amount of knowledge of this game. We previously played Super Monkey Ball for the Gamecube. That game wound up being fairly mediocre. Still, we thought we’d try this game to see if it’s any better.

There’s a number of modes in this game, but two large ones are the main game and mini games. Mini games are locked until you score points in the main game, so one of the first places you’ll go to is probably the main game.

Players will have immediate access to three difficulties: Beginner, Advanced, and Expert. Beginner has 10 easy floors. Advances has 20 more difficult floors. Finally, expert has 30 tough floors.

Whichever difficulty you choose, you’ll be able to choose between four different monkeys. As far as we can tell, the different monkeys are just more for look and an adjustment to sound.

In the floors themselves, the ultimate goal is to break the goal tape. You’ll have a time limit to get there. If you run out of time, you’ll time out and lose a life.

You can’t actually move the monkey or the ball the monkey is in yourself. Instead, you need to use the directional pad to tilt the whole floor. If you want a more gentle tilting, you use “B”. If you want a more coarse tilt, then you use “A”. Given how tight some of the time limits are, chances are, you’ll be using “A” more often then “B”.

Also found on the floor are banana’s. Over the course of the entire difficulty, you can accumulate these banana’s. If you amass 50 banana’s, you’ll get a free life. A single banana is worth one banana whereas a bunch is worth 10. Obviously, the 10 banana bunches are rarer then the single banana’s.

There are also very few walls in this game. If you fall off at any time, you’ll lose a life.

If, however, you get to the end before the time is up, you’ll advance to the next floor.

There are two bonuses you can get when you break the tape on any floor. The first bonus is a time bonus. If you beat the floor in a particularly fast manner, you’ll earn a 2x bonus. A second bonus is the perfect clear bonus. To get this, you have to collect every banana on the floor. Not always possible, but you’ll get a 2x bonus if you get this. If, on the rare occasion, you beat the floor fast and with all bonuses, the 2x bonuses stacks. So, you’ll effectively quadruple your score.

Another more rare bonus is the warp bonus. On a couple of floors, there is a second more difficult to reach finish. If you break the finish tape, you’ll warp several floors ahead. Additionally, you’ll be given a 3x bonus. I personally always took the warp which I’m sure some other players will know about how far I made it into the game itself already.

Also along the way, there are bonus stages. They generally have no goal tape. Instead, the goal is to collect as many banana’s as possible before the time expires. These floors generally give you a boost in banana’s, but can be tricky at times.

Additionally, if you make it to the end of the difficulty without using a continue, you’ll get to challenge 3 extra floors. As the message says, these stages are a bit more challenging then the other floors. Completing the extra stages is not mandatory, but can be helpful in getting a points boost.

At the end of the difficulty, you’ll be given a number of play points. This allows you to “buy” extra’s. These extra’s are generally the mini-games that are locked right away, but you can also buy continues as well.

If you get up to that point, you’ll be able to unlock the mini games with the play points you earn. There are four mini games: Monkey duel, monkey fight, monkey bowling, and monkey golf. Any of these minigames can be played as a multiplayer experience, but only three of them can be played as single player.

Monkey bowling has two different modes: normal bowling and challenge mode. Normal mode is just your standard 10 frame game. Get the highest number of points possible. Standard bowling rules apply.

The other mode is the 10 frame challenge. Your goal is to knock out every pin in one shot. The first frame is the full set of pins, but everything after is effectively picking up spares. Sometimes, you are taking on the dreaded split, but other times, you are picking off a few simple pin formations. Beat all 10 frames to clear the game.

Monkey golf operates like minigolf. Instead of a full 18 hole round, you have 2 9 hole courses. Every hole has a par of 3. You can adjust the strength of your shot with up or down on the directional pad. Get to the hole with as few shots as possible. The two courses are grassland and arctic. Grassland is the easy course whereas arctic is the difficult course.

Finally, there is monkey fight. You can play against fellow players or computer players. It’s the only mode I’m aware of where you can directly control the monkey’s. Each ball has a punching glove. The goal is to knock your opponents out of the ring. So, it’s a bit less about boxing and more like sumo wrestling with punching as your main attack. For every monkey you knock out, you get points. The player with the most points by the end of the match wins. The player with the most cumulative points after the set number of rounds wins the game.

Part way through the match, you’ll have boxes drop down. Break open the box and you’ll get to see a bonus. Collect this bonus to use it. Large glove gives you a larger hit radius. Long punch gives you more range for each strike. Vortex gives players the ability to swing their glove around if they hold down the punch button.

One thing to note about monkey fight is that physics has a way of doing some funny things. You can very easily gather a huge amount of momentum when you have players gang up on you. Don’t be afraid to use this to your advantage, though.

My favourite mode wound up being monkey fight. It’s a bit odd that a small mode actually is better than the main game, but that wound up being the most fun for me.

A problem for me with this game is the difficulty. You might take on the first floor or two in the beginner mode and think that it’s trivial to think about it being hard. As you go along, you’ll eventually find that you’ll be abusing the save and load system to conserve lives. If you think this game is easy all the way through, just try intermediate floor 7. Some people even go so far as to say that is an impossible floor. That is not even close to the half way point in the game.

In later levels, you’re dealing with corners that are barely a few pixels wide for you to balance on. I can appreciate a challenge, but I think the difficulty curve is too steep in this game.

The length of the game is actually quite reasonable, though the floor lengths were a bit on the short side of things at times. Still, there is good variety. I especially like the colour pallet changes as you progress even between difficulties.

Meanwhile, the bowling game does leave a lot to be desired. You had to rely more on good timing and a bit of luck more than actual skill. It’s not terrible, but it could have been better in my view.

Overall, this is a pretty reasonable game. It is, after all, trying to cram a console version into a small Game Boy Advance cartridge. It does so quite successfully in converting the home console version into a portable console version. It reminds me of some of the low polygon shapes from the Super Nintendo era in fact. The difficulty curve, unfortunately, is almost game breaking for me. The bowling mini game does leave a lot to be desired. Still, I thought the monkey fight mini game was very entertaining. So, a decent game all around.

Graphics are actually quite well done. You have a near fully 3D game crammed into a handheld system like this. It has a low polygon for obvious reasons. Still, I really like the colour pallet changes and the backgrounds are also well done. There’s even a few minor effects thrown in as well just as an added bonus. The only problem is that the game does have slowdowns whenever there is a lot being rendered. That does hinder play a bit. Still, it’s a great effort all around.

Audio is also well done. For some games, I find myself hearing music that definitely has a last generation sound to it where it is almost strictly chiptune styles. It’s as if some developers didn’t get the memo that this generation of handheld consoles is capable of more than just a few sine waves, saw tooths, and triangle tones. It’s definitely nice to hear the sound capabilities being fully utilized here and the music actually pretty good. The sound effects and monkey voice samples were definitely icing on the cake. So, a great effort all around there.

Overall, this is one of those games that is a very good effort to take a home console game and cram it into a mobile console system. In a general sense, I thought this is quite a successful effort. Unfortunately, the difficulty curve does kill a lot of the enjoyment. Still, you do get that look and feel of the console version here. The bowling minigame wasn’t that great, but the monkey fight mini game is probably the best asset this game has to offer. Graphics are great, though slowdowns do hinder gameplay in the process. Audio is also nicely done. So, a pretty solid game in my view.

Furthest point in game: Beat the three initial difficulties in the main mode. Beat the mini-golf with each course holding a 16 stroke record. Completed the challenge mode in bowling. Won a number of monkey fights with different match configurations.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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