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Also in this issue:

More Machine Than Flesh
by J. Johnson
a review essay of Rodney Brooks' Flesh and Machines


Buy Super Monkey Ball 2 at

Super Monkey Ball 2
for Nintendo GameCube

publisher: Sega
developer: Amusement Vision

reviewed by Justin Hall

February 24 , 2003 | games

Simian Simplicity and Painful Puzzles

Super Monkey Ball is about the easiest game to start playing, ever - steer a ball down ramps to a finish line. The monkey in the ball is window dressing. Many levels are so easy I felt like an immediate king gamer, with just the right intuitive understanding of rotund simian physics. Then I found some ramps laden with bumps and holes and moving parts that make progress impossible, and I felt like I was trying to thread a small needle with fingers dipped in olive oil.

Super Monkey Ball 2 doesn't require multiple opposable thumbs. Super Monkey Ball is throttle and steering in your left thumb - that's it. One thumb moving. All your right fingers can do is change the scale of the map and press the "retry" button when you invariably plunge to spinning, squealing monkey death.

While the gameplay is decidedly spare, Super Monkey Ball 2 is wall-to-wall stimulation. Constant propulsive samba techno music. Gaudy expansive landscape backdrops. Precarious landmasses that wobble wildly during play. A little monkey in a ball constantly in motion; wiggling its heart-shaped buttflesh, waving at the player, or maybe dancing a victory dance. Super Monkey Ball 2 is packed solid with primary colors and gyrating cute.

Simple and Overstimulating

Single player Super Monkey Ball 2 mostly tests a player's patience. Most levels can be solved either by moving tediously slowly, or by testing the puzzles enough times to understand their function.

I played Super Monkey Ball 2 for a good hour, and then I reached the "Reversible Gear" level Like most of the levels, you roll a monkey down a ramp until you reach some kind of toothy moving puzzle. Here, a large spinning gear obscures the goal - if you can time your rolling exactly, you'll fall between the spinning tines of the gear and reach the center. It's a skull-meets-wall frustrating game moment. I thought to myself, "Do I want to spend the next twenty minutes of my life studying the exact timing required to beat this puzzle?" Nope. Unless I want to play more Super Monkey Ball 2 with my friends.

Social Simians

Super Monkey Ball 2 takes advantage of the Game Cube's four player social gaming potential with a wide range of multiplayer games. Monkeys in balls appear in a chaotic fighting game, a catchy monkey gliding game and decent golf and bowling games. Racing, baseball and soccer are included, along with tennis, billiards and dog fight – twelve monkey ball mini-games in all. Six come with the game when you buy it, six more you buy with your time – unlocking mini-games through single-player success. I didn't play enough alone to unlock all of the games and I couldn't find any cheats that would let me unlock them without hammering my head against "Reversible Gear."

Playing games with friends is nearly always fun. Amidst the twelve mini-games you should find something that suits your group for at least ten minutes. But if you enjoy any one particular party game in SMB2, you're better off buying that specific sort of game: monkey ball fighting, for example, isn't as fun as the fantastic Super Smash Brothers Melee, and monkey ball racing comes in second place to some of the great "kart" racing games.

Super Monkey Ball 2 can be played by almost any gamer of almost any age. The premise is so simple, the interface doesn't get in the way and there's not much of a learning curve. But there's not very far you can run with it either. Maybe every gamer should have a game like this in their collection. Something that anyone can play, and people can play together, in nearly any state of sobriety. To play Super Monkey Ball 2 you only need one thumb and a pulse. And a bit of patience.

Justin Hall plays too many games but manages to write sometimes. His subjects include diversion, participation, romance, failure, Asia and California. Nearly everything he thinks publicly emanates from








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