SEGA is bringing their beloved Super Monkey Ball series to Sony's new PlayStation Vita, which, by the way, has been dated for February 22 of next year. Surely, everybody loves the little monkey rolling around in his super ball, collecting bananas, and trying his damnedest to avoid falling off the edge of any given level, right?
Heck, that monkey rules, and his offering on the Vita not only sounds promising, but it is promising, and in my opinion offers what all great portable titles should -- quick, pick-up-and-play gameplay.
Super Monkey Ball (PlayStation Vita)
At its core, Super Monkey Ball follows the quintessential "monkey see, monkey do" formula. You have a level, you have obstacles, you have bananas, and you have a goal. Play, rinse, and repeat for a ton of other levels, though each gets more difficult as you go along. Ramps get a bit steeper, corners get harder to take, and the floor has raised obstacles in the form of pyramids having you bump and trod your way across.
The Vita's analog sticks work well with Super Monkey Ball, which honestly shouldn't be a surprise. We've seen and played Monkey Ball before on systems that only offered analog gameplay, so those familiar with the series will feel at home here. The Vita's motion functionality, however, brings a whole new beast. Here, you are basically re-learning everything about Super Monkey Ball, with very calm hands being the key to reaching a level's finish line.
Hopping right in, Super Monkey Ball's control with the gyro-sensor and accelerometer felt fluid and intuitive after the first few losses. It doesn't feel too stiff nor too loose, and I honestly knew that losing a level was definitely due to my own fault, and not that of the controls.
But, motion controls aren't even the best part of Super Monkey Ball on the PlayStation Vita. That would have to go to the game's level creator, where taking a picture of your surroundings with the handheld's built-in camera will instantly make an in-game level based off the captured geometry. As an example, a SEGA representative and I assembled a "level" on a tabletop with a few television remotes and an iPhone. One of the remotes also had an incline to it, which made our impromptu assembly not just a flat surface. After taking a picture of the creation, it appeared on the Vita, and with a few shakes of the handheld, bam! A user-created level was born!
Now, the level wasn't an exact representation of what was on the tabletop, but it was nonetheless pretty impressive -- even the angled remote was shown in the course. It also followed the same outline of how the objects were placed.
Harking back to the shaking part I mentioned briefly before, yes, shaking the Vita "assembles" the level, and the harder you shake the harder the level will be. Interesting, yes, and when I tested it for myself it was ultimately true. I was told, though, that the team was worried about people carelessly shaking their Vita, and then ending up breaking them. I could totally see that turning into the next "Wii remote into the television" YouTube video.
Super Monkey Ball is planned to launch alongside the PlayStation Vita's release, so perhaps as early as next February will be your opportunity to get your hands on it. As I mentioned before, Super Monkey Ball offers that great quick bit of action that games of a portable platform should provide, and I can't wait to see what crazy level I'll be able to make next.