Super Monkey Ball 2 Hands-On Preview

When it comes to App Store classics, Super Monkey Ball is near the top of the list. While it has become infamous for having sub-par controls, that doesn’t take away the fact that it was the first game ever available on the iPhone. But as the old saying goes, first is the worst, and second is the best. After spending some time with a preview build of their impressive just-announced sequel, we can easily say that SEGA learned from its mistakes and created an experience much like what we found on consoles. It’s bananas!

We’ll cut to the chase, since this is likely what you’re waiting to hear about: the controls. While this game seems to be running on a similar engine to the first, SEGA has got the controls spot-on this time. The sensitivity is at just the right level, so navigating thin passageways and turning away from near death is always possible. We never found that we couldn’t progress because the game didn’t respond like we would expect. In fact, we would go so far as to say that Super Monkey Ball 2 is among the few games we actually had just as much fun controlling as we did with the actual gameplay.

The latest installment doesn’t scrimp on content, either. You’ll find 115 challenging levels built from the ground-up for the platform that keep things interesting by constantly bringing in new elements for you to adapt to. The classic bumpers and blockades are all present, but new features make every level feel different from the last. You’ll now find moving doors and roller coaster tracks that make you tilt to their curves to keep from falling. If you have a particularly good round, figure out a shortcut, or complete an insane trick, you can save a replay of your round to watch later. You can also go back after the fact and try to master a level by collecting all of the bananas without dying.

On the console iterations of Super Monkey Ball, one of our favorite features was the minigames. Super Monkey Ball 2 includes three. Monkey Bowling, in which you use a monkey as a bowling ball, will come bundled with the game, but Monkey Target and Monkey Golf will be added in a free update expected to release in early 2010. It is great to see these extras included, as they could have easily been sold as separate games.

Multiplayer is a feature that has proved entertaining in the past for Super Monkey Ball, and seeing as the iPhone is viewed as a social hand-held gaming experience, it was inevitable that the sequel would allow head-to-head play. For the main levels, you can connect over local Wi-Fi to face off against up to four friends for the fastest times. The minigames sport hotseat multiplayer with up to four people.

Finally, the aesthetic got a major overhaul. The monkeys are now modeled in full 3D and the colorful, zany themes of the five new worlds really pop off the screen. These changes really bring out the game’s charming personality. We had tons of fun rolling on pirate ships, above the clouds, and in underground caverns.

Super Monkey Ball 2 is due out in December. In its near-final form, there is no denying that this is the game SEGA meant to release in the first place. It’s an amazing feeling to sit back and think about how far iPhone gaming has come since its prehistoric days. We’d say civilization is in sight.