When we talk about Monkey Ball around these parts, it’s not long until we’re talking about the 0.1 string. It’s a pathway on the eleventh course of the original Super Monkey Ball’s advanced set of levels, and it embodies everything that’s great about Sega’s series. There are other, easier pathways available on the level – modelled on a electric guitar, with its six strings presenting six paths of varying width – but to be a Monkey Ball master is to nail the 0.1 string every time, matching pixel to pixel and pushing the GameCube’s analogue stick into place for the perfect run. It’s risk, reward and perfect control all slotted into one.
I don’t think the 0.1 string would work so well without the eccentricities of the GameCube’s pad, in particular the little octagon that the analogue stick sat in and which allowed you to lock into any one of eight directions. Indeed, there’s something about Super Monkey Ball that felt perfectly attuned to the console, which is probably why in turn I think the first Super Monkey Ball remains the closest the series has ever flown to perfection. Every iteration since has only muddied the formula, or twisted it in wayward directions.
There’s unlikely any more controversial meddling with that formula than 2007’s Wii launch title Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, which introduced a jump button, boss battles and – clutch those pearls, people – motion controls. And, being a Wii game, it also featured a morass of mini-games, with some 50 of the things providing an afternoon’s diversion as you tried to see if there was anything of worth in its shallows.