Evil Super MONKEY BALL
ADAM SHIEK DROPS THE (MONKEY) BALL — HE THINKS HE'S FOUND ONE OF THE HARDEST CHALLENGES ON THE NINTENDO GAMECUBE
I would like to humbly submit that level AD11 of Super Monkey Ball on the GameCube is the most sadomasochistic bit of design in video gaming history. Not necessarily because it is the hardest, but because it's engineered perfectly to suck you into caring before you appreciate how insanely difficult it is.
It is the eleventh stage on the "Advanced" level, for those not familiar with this despicable map, and consists of six guitar strings with gauges ranging from 1.0 down to 0.1.
Deceptively, the ten previous advanced stages are not so hard, lulling you into false confidence when you see the giant guitar laid out before you. "That's cool!" you think to yourself, blissfully unaware of the hell that awaits you.
You may well decide to play it safe the first time by taking the thickest gauge string. Even this route is a step up in difficulty though, as you have to line yourself up almost perfectly whilst dealing with a brutal time limit. To compensate, you speed up as you cross and then realise that it leads to a narrow ledge that you have no way of stopping on.
OK, slow and steady is the way to do this, and you successfully navigate the ledge, only to realise that there is a 180-degree turn and a steep uphill ramp still to navigate, so you run out of time. You realise you need to go fast enough to beat the timer whilst remembering to slam your brakes on without falling off the string at the end.
It takes a bit of practice; eventually, you clear the level. That's when the other, thinner strings start to taunt you.
You try the thinner 0.4 string and realise that it's manageable but much easier to fall off.
Against your better
judgement, your Monkey Ball edges onto the 0.3 string, only to discover that the fact each string is stretched out over three sections is starting to become an issue. Just because you clear the first section, it's still really easy to fall off during sections two or three unless you make featherlight touches on the joypad when making course adjustments.
The 0.2 string is the next challenge, which is where masochism starts to come into play. Somehow, the fact that you've completed the previous strings compels you to cross this one, despite falling to your death time and time again. How about if you oh-so-carefully line yourself up perfectly? That won't work. Should you take too long, a barrier rises and blocks you from even starting! This is no longer any fun, but you get a bit further every now and again, so you gnash your teeth and continue. Hours or even days later, you pass through the finish gate and then look in anguish at the tiny sliver of a line that is the 0.1 string.
Most people will have given up by this point — but against your better judgement, you give it a go. Even getting onto the damn string before the barrier rises is nigh-on impossible, but you persevere anyway. You realise this is not a game anymore; it has become a personal quest where guiding a monkey in a ball over an almost invisibly thin — but entirely optional — pathway has become the highest priority in your life. Sobbing with relief, you pass through the goal. Maybe it was the first time you crossed the string. Perhaps you had to do it several times because of that blasted timer and evil ledge on the other side. But it doesn't
matter; you've completed the thinnest string! Except, of course, there's another one, and this one is red. So maybe it's harder? You should just quit. What have you got to prove? You've already completed the 0.1 string!
But like an idiot, you roll down the entry ramp to the final challenge. With dawning horror, you suddenly understand that the innocuouslooking extra bunch of bananas that the designer has added to the level completely obscures your view. With no string to align yourself with, you are trapped in an endless three-second loop: roll; make the stupid bananas disappear; curse the creators of all things Monkey Ball, as you instantly plummet to your doom. Get used to it; this is now your life.
Do you think there are even more evil experiences in gaming? Remember, just being impossible isn't good enough. Anyone can design something that you know will be more trouble than it's worth to complete. But it takes a special kind of twisted genius to make you keep trying, far beyond the point where you know you're not good enough and should play something else instead. Fusion invites you to share your own choice of sadistic game design on the official Fusion Discord channel; you never know, maybe we will publish your experiences in a future issue — https://discord.gg/ZSFf3nteND