Super Monkey Ball 2


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Super Monkey Ball 2 Review

The original Super Monkey Ball holds a special place in the history of the iPhone as a gaming platform. At launch, it was a recognizable game that was positioned as a showpiece for Apple’s new device. As a franchise born on the Nintendo Gamecube back in 2000, there have been numerous variations of the game founded on the addictive maze-like racer.

Unfortunately, the reception for Super Monkey Ball was generally lukewarm. With the main areas of discontent being unresponsive controls and average presentation, fans of the franchise were understandably let down, considering how the gameplay seems an ideal match for the iPhone.

Tim Burton presents Super Monkey Ball 2.

A little over a year later, Sega has rebounded with the sequel, starring our favorite big-eared monkey in a ball. Super Monkey Ball 2 features a whole new set of 115 levels that are waiting to be conquered. Designed as a more refined version of its predecessor, Super Monkey Ball 2 hardly deviates from the winning formula at all.

Par for the course, you’ll be rolling around many timed bite-sized levels, trying to get to the goal as fast as you can. Some levels will take 5 seconds, while others take as long as 30 seconds, but there is always the risk of losing lives by falling off ledges. It’s easy at first, but getting to the later levels opens up new wrinkles to make life harder. Levels start to have more obstacles, paths have sharper angles, and unseen hazards await your rolling ball. You can save replays from your runs and view them later, too.

Super Monkey Ball 2 improves on the disappointing controls that impaired the original game, yet there’s still room for improvement. The iPhone’s accelerometer still controls your ball’s rotation and acceleration, but everything feels tighter. With death by way of spectacular fall always being a constant threat, it’s great that Sega took the complaints about the controls seriously. For purists like us, who recall loading up the Gamecube classic on that ugly purple system, we would have loved to see a virtual analog stick as an option. Tilt controls provide a more dynamic feel, but harder levels could use the precision that comes with an analog stick.

Gotta eat ‘em all.

A new fresh coat of vibrant color and 3D modeling is noticeable now, too. Super Monkey Ball was a decent looking game, but it was faking the funk by using a fusion of sprite and polygonal-based assets in environments that didn’t have much detail. There’s none of that monkey business this time, as Super Monkey Ball 2 is a visual buffet. There’s a persistent high-res sheen that envelopes your screen, and virtually everything is rendered in 3D. The only distraction you’ll have from the awesome graphics is the lame soundtrack. Yeah, we know we aren’t the target demographic for this brand, but the lack of custom soundtracks, official or workaround, is inexcusable.

The improved controls and graphics are welcome and all, but the biggest headline feature in Super Monkey Ball 2 is multiplayer competition. Using a local wi-fi connection, you can go ball to ball with a friend in a 5 level race to the top of the short leaderboard. In theory this would be awesome, but we consistently got connection errors that suddenly ended our intense profanity-laced duels. There’s also a bowling minigame that’s cool, but the same connection issues messed up that action as well.

It’s great that Sega fixed several missteps to make Super Monkey Ball 2 a worthwhile upgrade from the original. The signature charm is intact, and there’s a lot to do on the single-player end. That being said, the multiplayer flaws are glaring, and it’d be a shame if the problems went ignored. With a few critical fixes on its to-do list, Super Monkey Ball 2 has the potential to make the jump from good to great.

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Previews

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.