Thursday, October 14, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Super Monkey Ball 2 Review


Holy smokes, has it really been 10 years since Super Monkey Ball debuted on the GameCube? I loved the gameplay of the original, but I haven’t revisited it in years. The idea that I can now carry it around in my pocket still blows my mind.

And Super Monkey Ball 2 does a great job of blowing the mind. This is the entire Monkey Ball experience crammed into an app and given the kind of control system it always demanded. It’s almost absurd that you can buy gameplay this good for a few bucks.

For those who haven’t played Super Monkey Ball before, here are the basics:

The gameboard is essentially a giant, elaborate tilt-maze with a beginning and an end. A monkey is inside a sphere, sort of like a hamster in an exercise ball.

(Why is the monkey inside the sphere? When questions like this arise, I usually just say, “Because it’s Japanese,” and move along. For gamers, that’s about all the explanation you need. It’s best not to question how the Japanese come up with this madness. It’s enough just to be grateful for it.)

Anyway, you don’t ever control the monkey. You control the level itself, which is suspended far above the world below. Tilting the device forward tilts the landscape and makes the monkey roll forward; backwards slows him down. Left and right take care of steering.

The object is to get the monkey from the start of the level to the end while trying to collect bananas along the way. Bananas equal extra lives.

And those extra lives are necessary, because this is not a monkey-friendly environment. It’s all too easy for the little monkey to slide right off the edge of the landscape and plummet to his monkey death. This is actually fairly unnerving, particularly if you have a fear of heights. The result is tense, challenging combination of maze and arcade game. Levels get progressively more complex and elaborate, with rails, hairpin turns, slamming doors, hammers, and other threats.

Super Monkey Ball 2 absolutely nails the control scheme. The first Super Monkey Ball was one of the early releases to the app store, and this improves upon it in every way. The sequel piles on the extra features by including 115 levels, a set of minigames (monkey bowling, monkey golf, and monkey target) and multiplayer support via WiFi. The 3D graphics are exceptional, and controls are more sensitive and responsive than those found in the first Super Monkey Ball. It still takes a good 5-10 minutes to get a grip on the control, but once you do it becomes second nature.

Some people may complain that the price is “high” at $6, but those are the kind of people I tend to ignore. DS games of this quality regularly sell for $30, and if you keep an eye on this one, you can sometimes find it discounted to $2.


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