Sega’s Super Monkey Ball series has always been popular amongst hardcore gamers given the skill required to survive some of its puzzles.
Yet, as the gaming demographic continues to grow, the publisher is looking to expand the series’ appeal amongst a much wider audience.
Cue Step & Roll, the new Wii entry to the long-running franchise. Far from simply shoehorning new puzzles and mini-games onto a disc, the key hook for this title is Wii Balance Board compatibility, allowing gamers to control the game with their entire body for the first time.
It’s a premise that should suit Super Monkey Ball perfectly, with similar mechanics already seen in Wii Fit’s challenges and Konami’s Marbles! Balance Challenge. Not only should it make the action more immersive, it could also make solving each puzzle a much more active process, perfect for anyone starting to tire of the Wii’s various Yoga and fitness titles.
However, Sega is keen to point out that there is more to Step & Roll than a new control mechanic. The game is packed with new content that should keep veteran Monkey Ball fans satisfied for months, while gently easing newcomers into the series’ world-tilting ways.
“Super Monkey Ball has a very strong heritage and with every title the quality just gets better,” says PR and marketing executive Kate Billingham.
“In Step & Roll we have a whopping 70 new puzzle levels, with seven different worlds to explore.
“We have two new game modes: Marathon Mode and Mirror Image Mode, which provide extra challenges to long-time Monkey Ball fans. We also have 21 mini-games, lots of bonus content, a co-operative mode and a mini-game mode built for up to four players – and that’s before you’ve even stepped onto the Balance Board.”
Balance Board controls should help to entice newcomers to the series, which could make this game the best-selling Monkey Ball so far. And while Sega is vying for this new audience, it hasn’t forgotten about the franchise’s core fans.
“We think Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll is the most accessible title yet,” continues Billingham.
“The Balance Board element fits perfectly with the rolling gameplay mechanic and really brings the collection of puzzles to life.
“If you’d rather sit it out and use the Wii Remote, that’s fine too – all modes and missions are compatible with both. So if you’re a long-time Super Monkey Ball fan or a newcomer to the series, there’s something to suit you.”
Sega has drawn up a marketing campaign to effectively communicate how enjoyable Super Monkey Ball games can be to a wider audience. The marketing will primarily be focused towards children, with competitions, puzzles and ads running in various kids print publications.
The publisher has also arranged for a dedicated online campaign to run through popular kids’ networking website Bin Weevils, where consumers will be able to take part in treasure hunts and launch parties – a partnership that Sega expects will generate over four million impressions.
Finally, the firm will be targeting its core fans with community-dedicated challenges running across social networking sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.
“Our last Super Monkey Ball Wii release, Banana Blitz, sold through over 250,000 units and proved popular with old and new fans alike, so we have great hopes for Step & Roll,” adds Billingham.
“This is the first time any game in the series has utilised the Balance Board, which opens up a whole new way to play. It’s going to broaden the reach of Super Monkey Ball games even further, and that can only be a good thing.”