Game Reviews

Super Monkey Ball 2

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Super Monkey Ball 2

Peeling a banana is a step-by-step affair. You can't get to the fruit without pulling back the peel in bits. Super Monkey Ball 2 takes this incremental approach to improving the tilt-enabled gameplay of the original, peeling away a couple of complaints but leaving enough behind to bruise the fruit of SEGA's labour.

Tilts of your handset manoeuvre a monkey in a ball through more than a hundred stages in this franchise-faithful sequel. Each level has you navigating narrow catwalks and suspended platforms littered with obstacles in search of life-giving bananas and a red exit gate. Working through the tricks and challenges is only the half of it, as a timer adds pressure to finish with haste.

Graciously, the difficulty has been decreased and Super Monkey Ball 2 is much preferred over its predecessor as a result. The improvement stems from several changes, most notably the controls, though better level design and a more forgiving progress structure factor as well.

Tally dem bananas

Progress is no longer tied to how many bananas you collect and now relies solely on completing each set of levels. It's a welcome change from the previous game, though still limiting.

Levels unlock in a linear fashion, which forces you to play each stage in a specific order. Should you get stuck on a level, there's no way to skip it and continue playing other stages.

Fortunately, the difficulty ramps up gradually so that the toughest stages wait for you at the end of the game. You're unlikely to get stuck on the first half of the game, though once you begin tackling the last few batches it gets hard.

Out of control

The most difficult levels are made such by control deficiencies. In response to criticism of the first game's hypersensitivity, the accelerometer's sensitivity has been turned down. This ensures easier control over speed, but turning is now a problem.

Tilting left and right serves to both rotate the camera and turn your monkey ball. This trades turning precision for an adaptive camera. It's a noted improvement over the original, yet not precise enough to tackle the challenges presented.

Attempts at sharp turns result in the camera moving more than your monkey ball. During later stages, where you have to make right angle turns on narrow pathways, the controls prove deficient.

Rolling backwards is now impossible because the camera spins around to centre the view behind your monkey ball. Providing optional manual camera controls - sliding a finger across the screen to adjust the camera - could combat this problem.

Bowling for colubus

Calibration or sensitivity settings are missing from the options menu, amazingly enough. Sega failed to learn the hard lesson with the first game, omitting both options again to the detriment of the Super Monkey Ball 2.

Instead, a useless tilt meter can be toggled that displays the degree at which you're holding your handset. It's unclear in what ways this makes playing easier or improves control.

As a consolation, a new local wi-fi multiplayer mode and bowling mini-game have been included. Multiplayer is a curious and altogether needless addition, though Monkey Bowling is fun. The decision to hold off on two mini-games - Monkey Golf and Monkey Target - is perplexing.

All of these shortcomings prevent Super Monkey Ball 2 from peeling away the flaws of its predecessor. Many of its failings have in fact been inherited with little rectification. New levels and mini-games are great, but it's hard to go bananas for a game with so many easily identifiable errors.

Super Monkey Ball 2

Super Monkey Ball 2 does little to peel away the flaws of the original, presenting new levels and mini-games with only incremental changes to its controls and options