I waffled for a long time on purchasing this title, but in the end I ordered it when I ordered Super Smash Brothers Melee. And I don't think a better spontaneous decision could have been made.
What is Monkey Ball? In its most basic form, you control a Monkey, in a ball, and your goal is to roll that ball across an obstacle and hole filled floor to a goal without falling off. Well, actually you control the floor, and tilting it different ways gets your Monkey Ball a'rollin'.
And Super Monkey Ball manages to execute this gameplay perfectly. And it's lots of fun, though some of the later levels do get a little frustrated. I'm stuck on two different levels at the moment, but that's not going to keep me down. There's more than 100 floors to roll through, and I've only played the 40 easiest ones so far.
Oh but wait, there's so much more. In addition to the main game, there are 3 party games and 3 bonus games: Monkey Fight, Monkey Racing, and Monkey Target. And Monkey Billiards, Monkey Bowling, and Monkey Golf.
And Monkey Ball superbly executes each of these extra modes as well.
Monkey Racing puts you in control of a monkey ball on a race track against three other monkey balls. Up makes you go faster, Down makes you go slower, and A uses an item you've picked up. Couldn't be simpler. Go, and attempt to win.
Monkey Fight drops four monkey balls onto a platform in space, and your goal is to knock your opponents off. Not by crashing your monkey ball into them, because by the laws of physics that just wouldn't out well. No, instead, you've got a huge retractable boxing glove attached to your monkey ball, and hitting A sends it flying! Plus, there are power ups you can pick as the fight progresses. The most points wins.
Monkey Target is by far the trickiest of the games, but once you get the hang of it, it too is fun (though perhaps a little less fun than those first two). After rolling your monkey ball down a giant ramp, your goal is to hit a target as accurately as possible. Once you launch from the ramp, A switches you into flight mode. You can steer a little, but too much will use up your momentum. That's the tricky part. Then, once you're above the target, hit A again once you feel you've aimed sufficiently, and hope for the best. There are a few more complications here, and it's harder than it sounds. This is my least favorite part of the game at the moment.
Monkey Billiards lets you play a game of Billiards, using a monkey ball as the cue ball. That's about all there is to this 1 or 2 player game.
Monkey Bowling lets you use a monkey ball as a bowling ball, but it's not that simple. You can't aim or pick your power and your spin yourself. Instead, an arrow is quickly oscillating back and forth across the lane, and you hit A to stop. And then a power gauge quickly oscillates, and you hit A to stop it. And then, between the time the ball is rolled and the time the ball hits the line, you can adjust the curve with the L and R buttons. And because of these insane reflex and timing restrictions, this game would probably be a blast while drunk.
And finally Monkey Golf, in which you play golf with a monkey ball. Monkey balls don't bring anything to the golf mini-game sub-genre, but that's not a bad thing, and this is just as much fun as Monkey Bowling.
So, this game is a blast. My roommates and I played it for several hours tonight. If you've got a GameCube, you should not hesitate to buy Super Monkey Ball. However, Super Monkey Ball is not a reason to buy the a GameCube. (Actually, for me, the only launch title worth buying a GameCube for was Rogue Leader.)
Super Monkey Ball doesn't attempt anything grand or breathtaking. What it does attempt is simple controls, fun game play, and lots of replay value. And what it attempted, it accomplished perfectly, and that means 5/5.
(Oh, also, I'd just like to share how freaking weird it is for a Sega logo to show up right after a Nintendo logo.)