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TGS 2009: Feet-on: Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll


It's surprising to think Sega hasn't already made a Super Monkey Ball game for the Wii Balance Board. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? However, Sega made the playable debut of the very first Balance Board-enabled Monkey Ball game at TGS this year with Step & Roll.

Conceptually, the game is rather easy to grasp. Once again, players are tasked with getting monkeys (that are mysteriously trapped in plastic balls) to a goal by tilting the game world. This time around, the game can be controlled through shifting your weight on the Balance Board -- the translation should be immediately apparent.

Perhaps masters of Wii Fit (and subsequent fitness-related knockoffs) should find no problem with Step & Roll. However, a Balance Board novice like myself was a bit overwhelmed by the sensitivity demanded by the game: it takes subtle shifts in weight to carefully control the monkeys. Instead, my exaggerated movements caused the board to jerk around, tossing the trapped simian around haphazardly through the course.

Gallery: Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll (Wii) | 13 Photos

Granted, the design team had made accommodations for Balance Board play, introducing carved gutter paths that help AiAi and company stay on a fast track to the goal. The levels also feature large walls, preventing any fall-outs -- well, at least early levels do.

Playing with the Balance Board is a brand new way of playing Monkey Ball, and it is admittedly a very refreshing way of playing. However, the game also supports traditional Wii Remote controls. Because using the Remote controller will be a bit more intuitive to players, the development team has wisely altered the courses a bit, adding bumper obstacles on the main path that players must navigate around. The bumpers don't necessarily make the levels harder to complete, but balance the game so that skilled Balance Board players will likely be able to complete stages faster than even Wii Remote-equipped ones.

In addition to the core game, Sega has added the requisite mini games demanded by the franchise. Once again, these can be played with the Balance Board, guaranteeing someone will make fun of you whilst playing the game. One game had us shaking our butts to knock a AI-controlled monkey off a platform. Why? We're not entirely sure. While these mini games are likely to be hit-or-miss, we will admit to enjoying Step & Roll's cooperative mode. With one player on Balance Board and the other on the Wii Remote, the second player can start shooting obstacles out of the way, akin to the co-op mode of Super Mario Galaxy. It may not be a particularly innovative co-op mode, but it certainly keeps both players engaged.

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