A decade on from Super Monkey Ball’s arcade debut, and if the countless sequels and spin-offs have taught fans of simians in spheres anything, it is this – the original concept was a master stroke of design genius that required no modification.
A natural evolution of Marble Madness, the design brief was as tight as Pong and as addictive as Tetris, requiring no explanation beyond “collect bananas, reach goal”, while all the while being devilishly exacting and eternally rewarding.
Since 2005′s sublime SMB Deluxe, the series has only felt comfortable moving forward with new hardware concepts, jumping on any piece of gadgetry that tilts, shakes or oscillates, sadly with varying degrees of failure. Following Traveller’s Tales’ appalling bastardisation that was SMB Adventure, Sega of Japan have once again taken the reins for Step and Roll, a sequel to SMB: Banana Blitz, and as the title would imply, they’ve found a new piece of hardware to play with in the somewhat underused Wii Balance Board.
Offering a pleasingly straightforward choice of Main Game (collect bananas, reach goal) and Mini Games (a selection of 21 party games), SMB is once again in familiar territory. Dropping the unnecessary boss battles and jump command, the main game tasks you with rolling your chimp through seven worlds of ever-increasing difficulty in a way that thankfully doesn’t really require any more explanation that that. No doubt to compensate for the new control scheme, courses are initially easier than previous iterations, and you will see plenty of guiding half-pipes and protective barriers in early levels, though masochists will be pleased to see it gets painfully tricky later on.
Though Sega are “kind” enough to give us a new control scheme, it has come at the expense of a trusty classic. You can no longer utilise the perfectly workmanlike analogue stick of the Nunchuck, and are forced to use either the Wii Remote or Balance Board. The Remote offers an experience comparable with Banana Blitz, allowing a reasonably good degree of control over the levels if you’re willing to put in the hours needed to tame its sensitive nature.