Game Reviews

Super Monkey Ball

Star onStar onStar onStar halfStar off
Super Monkey Ball

With the launch of the iPhone App Store, it's a whole new ball game with regards to mobile gaming. Touch controls and tilt technology offer radical new ways to play, giving familiar franchises like Super Monkey Ball new life. Sega rolls onto iPhone with a game that perfectly captures the promise of the platform. Despite being too difficult, Super Monkey Ball for iPhone is an enjoyable game boasting great visuals and intuitive controls.

As one of four adorable monkeys encased within a clear plastic ball, Super Monkey Ball has you rolling through obstacle-ridden stages to reach an end goal. The game makes perfect sense on iPhone where the accelerometer enables you to intuitively tilt stages with twists and turns of your wrist. Tilt the device to the left and the stage shifts accordingly, causing your monkey to slide toward that direction. The concept is extraordinarily simple, which is large part of why the game is so entertaining.

Stages vary in design from easy paths lined with guard rails to prevent you from falling and losing a life to more challenging catwalks demanding ultra precision. Obviously, levels progressively get harder the deeper into the game you delve.

For instance, later levels feature moving platforms, steep inclines, bumpers, and daring drops. Contending with these obstacles on their own is a hearty challenge, but you're also working against the clock as each stage counts down from 60 seconds. Fail to pass through the goal before time runs out and you lose a life. Collecting bananas situated in each stages makes it possible to earn additional lives.

Getting used to the accelerometer is a greater obstacle than anything the game throws at you, however. Before you can begin to enjoy Super Monkey Ball at all, you're in for a frustrating adjustment to the immensely sensitive control scheme. The tiniest tilt sends your monkey veering off a course. Finding the neutral position proves problematic though, since it's been set at an odd angle.

Even when you have familiarised yourself with the controls, the game remains frustratingly difficult. Unlocking new stages demands ridiculous precision in collecting the bananas littering each level. The game's main mode contains five worlds with 11 levels apiece. Only after you've chowed down on every last banana in each of a world's stages will you have the honour of moving onto the next world.

It's just too restrictive. Super Monkey Ball should unlock a new world as long as you've completed the puzzles. Forcing you to collect every banana in order to progress through the game makes it entirely too hard.

And, to be honest, it's surprising that more content hasn't been packed into the game. Fifty-plus stages offers more than enough gameplay - when you finally get around to unlocking them all - yet it would have been nice to include a couple touch-based mini-games or varied bonus stages (as have typically appeared in other versions of the franchise). The game feels a bit shallow as a result.

Still, like slipping on an organic fairtrade banana peel, Super Monkey Ball is really just tripping on a good thing. The core gameplay is great: the stages are challenging, the controls (once you become acquainted with the sensitivity) are intuitive, and visually it's quite impressive. It's one of the best iPhone games at launch, but expect to exert a lot of effort to unlock every bit of sweetness.

Keep the ball rolling with our iPhone games news and reviews section.

Super Monkey Ball

Its difficulty may drive you bananas, but there's great fun to be had thanks to intuitive controls and very polished visuals