056794-1With its monkey rolling, twitch-balancing action, the Monkey Ball series seems like an easy sell on the iPhone. Despite stemming from a console franchise that’s been around for nearly a decade, the concept almost feels like it was grown specifically for the iPhone. If anything, this was a series that was waiting for the right platform to come along. But when Super Monkey Ball was released alongside the AppStore launch last summer, the results were anything but super. The controls were poorly executed and the visuals felt like a hand-me-down from the days when 16 bit gaming was trying to step out of 2D – the whole experience just wasn’t up to par. Now, 18 months later, Sega gets much closer to delivering the Monkey Ball game that everybody wants.

The objective in Super Monkey Ball 2 (like all games in the series) is to guide a monkey who is trapped in a ball to an exit without letting him roll off the playing field. You’ll navigate a variety of wild and well designed environments all the while using the power of tilt to control the ball. The game relies heavily on the concept of momentum, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re always moving at a controllable speed so that you can navigate the treacherous terrain laid before you.

056794_4Super Monkey Ball 2, while far from perfect, is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Visually the game has stepped boldly into the world of 3D graphics, looking a fair bit like the Gamecube games that paved the way for the series success. Both the main characters and the environments look completely up to what you’d seen in its home console brethren. Considering the last game felt less like a modern portable and more like the bonus stage from Sonic 2, this is a massive and welcome improvement.

While stepped-up visuals are nice, the real sticking point with the series previous entry was the controls. The game sees a major improvement here as well, but it’s still far from perfect. The good news is you’ll never have a problem telling your monkey where to roll anymore. The bad news? You can’t set your default position for the tilt and you can’t control tilt sensitivity. To keep your monkey perfectly still you’ll need to hold your iPhone at about 10 degrees from a perfectly upright position. That means you’ll need to prop your iPhone directly in front of your face if you want to control your amiable ape without much difficulty. Those of us who don’t want to look like schmucks while rolling our monkeys around on the bus are completely out of luck, as holding the iPhone near your lap is really going to ramp up how difficult it is to get a handle on your monkey.

The lack of a tilt sensitivity adjustment definitely came across as an annoyance as well. Sure anyone can adjust to what’s offered in terms of tilting, but I found that sensitivity was just far too touchy for my liking. I had to make extra tiny delicate little moves to control my simian without bowling him clear off the playing field. As a big, brutish, relatively careless gamer, the forced precision seemed a little excessive. Tilt sensitivity controls would have fixed all of that.

Despite these annoyances, the controls still feel far more responsive than what we experienced in Monkey Ball’s first iPhone outing. This time around the controls are manageable and anyone can adapt to what’s on the table.

The game has seen other improvements as well. Mini-games have always been a staple of the franchise, but they were conspicuously absent from the previous endeavour. This time around the game features Monkey Bowling – a complete bowling game where you roll your monkey ball instead of the traditional three-holed variety. Two other mini-games – Monkey Golf and Monkey Target – have placeholder spots in the menu with big “coming soon” messages attached. It’s a shame that the content wasn’t included at launch, but at least we know more is on the way.

Multiplayer is also a welcome addition, supporting up to 4 players over local wifi. The multiplayer offering isn’t incredibly deep – you can race against friends to complete each level in record time and play mini-games together – but that doesn’t keep it from being a nice bonus to players seeking a party experience. If anything, it’s what games like Monkey Bowling were made for.

Monkey Ball fans are going to be delighted by the improvements here, but it’s hard to deny that Super Monkey Ball 2 is far from perfect. Should Sega decide to introduce some tilt adjusting options when they release the extra mini-games, Super Monkey Ball 2 would be a much easier offering to recommend. In the meantime, I still found it just a little too twitchy and sensitive to keeps the waves of frustration at bay.

App Store Link: Super Monkey Ball 2, $9.99

TouchArcade Rating

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  • preston

    "Those of us who don’t want to look like schmucks while rolling our monkeys around on the bus are completely out of luck, as holding the iPhone near your lap is really going to ramp up how difficult it is to get a handle on your monkey."

    LoL

  • preston

    "Those of us who don’t want to look like schmucks while rolling our monkeys around on the bus are completely out of luck, as holding the iPhone near your lap is really going to ramp up how difficult it is to get a handle on your monkey."

    LoL

  • Victor

    Well. You don't have to worry about playing this game on the bus because it is literally impossible. Unless the bus is traveling at a constant speed, in a straight line.

  • Victor

    Well. You don't have to worry about playing this game on the bus because it is literally impossible. Unless the bus is traveling at a constant speed, in a straight line.

  • Mr Slinky Spring

    I tried to play Boost 3D whilst on the subway the other day.. Was like trying to make an omlette with one hand!

  • Mr Slinky Spring

    I tried to play Boost 3D whilst on the subway the other day.. Was like trying to make an omlette with one hand!

  • Rad

    When the I-Phone had no games at all I bought Monkey Ball for $9.99 but with all the new games this price is way to high. I will wait for the sale; then again I may never buy this game. To be honest I played 2 levels on the first one. The controls were terrible. It was more of a see what my I-phone could do game anyway.

  • Rad

    When the I-Phone had no games at all I bought Monkey Ball for $9.99 but with all the new games this price is way to high. I will wait for the sale; then again I may never buy this game. To be honest I played 2 levels on the first one. The controls were terrible. It was more of a see what my I-phone could do game anyway.

  • differenz

    9.99$? haha. Not today.

    • MidianGTX

      Cheep cheep.

      • belsunce

        considering how poorly the first one played, I don't blame him for not wanting to drop ten bucks on this

  • differenz

    9.99$? haha. Not today.

    • MidianGTX

      Cheep cheep.

      • belsunce

        considering how poorly the first one played, I don't blame him for not wanting to drop ten bucks on this

  • Eric

    Who's Jim Squires? Reviewer? New admin?

  • Eric

    Who's Jim Squires? Reviewer? New admin?

  • Chuck U Farley

    Agreed about the price. No monkey for me.

  • Chuck U Farley

    Agreed about the price. No monkey for me.

  • peterpane

    played the first one,hated it,because it was so frustrating, got the second one and loooved it, played it through in 2 days and after that i got the courage to play the first one again and played that till the last level and was stuck there for over a week, man it was frustrating but yesterday i managed to finish that one too and the satisfaction was worth it (:

  • peterpane

    played the first one,hated it,because it was so frustrating, got the second one and loooved it, played it through in 2 days and after that i got the courage to play the first one again and played that till the last level and was stuck there for over a week, man it was frustrating but yesterday i managed to finish that one too and the satisfaction was worth it (:

  • Klemens

    Shaun White Snowboarding: Origin is out, costs 4.99$ and has Open Feint Support. Please Review it :)

    iTunes Link:
    http://itunes.apple.com/at/app/shaun-white-snowboarding-origins/id338758751?mt=8

    • kita

      Looked at the game and it's so obvious that the game reviews are from the devs.

      • sk8erdude50

        haha ya your right

  • Klemens

    Shaun White Snowboarding: Origin is out, costs 4.99$ and has Open Feint Support. Please Review it :)

    iTunes Link:
    http://itunes.apple.com/at/app/shaun-white-snowboarding-origins/id338758751?mt=8

    • kita

      Looked at the game and it's so obvious that the game reviews are from the devs.

      • sk8erdude50

        haha ya your right

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

    I think the review is spot on. I've managed to finish the game twice now (although there's no way I'm going back to try and collect all the bananas on each level first time without dying), but there are still frustrating segments where it seems the controls just aren't up to the task of making the game playable.

    My biggest gripe is actually about the controls being under-sensitive. There are some slopes in the game that are so steep that you have to keep the iPhone tilted at 90 degrees to ensure your monkey doesn't build up too much speed and just fly off the level. I don't know what the viewing angle is for the iPhone but at 90 degrees the colours on the screen can't be seen properly. Clearly the designers expect the player to tilt the phone to over 90 degrees as the tilt meter in the bottom left still shows plenty of room for extra tilt. Do they expect players to turn the phone upside down to go backwards even faster?!

    I think a simple solution would be to let the player touch and hold on the screen to activate a fine control mode for dealing with tricky corners. Preferably this mode would also allow for fast stops on steep slopes, although that might feel counter-intuitive if the mode is mainly for small movements.

    This brings me to my second gripe, the game demands the phone be held almost flat by default and I end up uncomfortably hunched over the screen so I can see what is going on. It badly needs a tilt calibration screen so it can be held at a reasonable angle.

    Overall, I'd say wait and see if there's a patch. Sega patched the first one a few times trying to fix it (although they never managed to make it fun), hopefully they will try and fix this one too.

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

    I think the review is spot on. I've managed to finish the game twice now (although there's no way I'm going back to try and collect all the bananas on each level first time without dying), but there are still frustrating segments where it seems the controls just aren't up to the task of making the game playable.

    My biggest gripe is actually about the controls being under-sensitive. There are some slopes in the game that are so steep that you have to keep the iPhone tilted at 90 degrees to ensure your monkey doesn't build up too much speed and just fly off the level. I don't know what the viewing angle is for the iPhone but at 90 degrees the colours on the screen can't be seen properly. Clearly the designers expect the player to tilt the phone to over 90 degrees as the tilt meter in the bottom left still shows plenty of room for extra tilt. Do they expect players to turn the phone upside down to go backwards even faster?!

    I think a simple solution would be to let the player touch and hold on the screen to activate a fine control mode for dealing with tricky corners. Preferably this mode would also allow for fast stops on steep slopes, although that might feel counter-intuitive if the mode is mainly for small movements.

    This brings me to my second gripe, the game demands the phone be held almost flat by default and I end up uncomfortably hunched over the screen so I can see what is going on. It badly needs a tilt calibration screen so it can be held at a reasonable angle.

    Overall, I'd say wait and see if there's a patch. Sega patched the first one a few times trying to fix it (although they never managed to make it fun), hopefully they will try and fix this one too.

  • Trotgar

    I loved the fist one, you just had to make small moves.

  • Trotgar

    I loved the fist one, you just had to make small moves.

  • nizy

    Jim, if you're going to be reviewing games for TA from now on, please can you at least do a proof read first. There are so many errors (grammar, spelling and missing words) in that review.

    As for the review, I think you make the controls here sound worse than they are in comparison to SMB1. That game was way over sensitive; this 1 isn't. In fact most forum members have said the opposite - under sensitive. Personally I think its about right and works very well. And of course it won't work well on a bus, I don't think any tilt based games do.

    • Chad

      It's better than Big Albie...he's afraid to review anything he can't give a glowing review about. At least this guy is real.

    • MidianGTX

      Either it's been edited or you're nitpicking, it looks fine to me.

  • nizy

    Jim, if you're going to be reviewing games for TA from now on, please can you at least do a proof read first. There are so many errors (grammar, spelling and missing words) in that review.

    As for the review, I think you make the controls here sound worse than they are in comparison to SMB1. That game was way over sensitive; this 1 isn't. In fact most forum members have said the opposite - under sensitive. Personally I think its about right and works very well. And of course it won't work well on a bus, I don't think any tilt based games do.

    • Chad

      It's better than Big Albie...he's afraid to review anything he can't give a glowing review about. At least this guy is real.

    • MidianGTX

      Either it's been edited or you're nitpicking, it looks fine to me.

  • Chad

    "Those of us who don’t want to look like schmucks while rolling our monkeys around on the bus are completely out of luck"

    Of course you are. Because it's impossible to keep you from looking like a schmuck. Tilt games will always make you look silly in public.

  • Chad

    "Those of us who don’t want to look like schmucks while rolling our monkeys around on the bus are completely out of luck"

    Of course you are. Because it's impossible to keep you from looking like a schmuck. Tilt games will always make you look silly in public.

  • Killquake

    I was one of the few who loved the first, i'm not a fan of this one. Feels like im trying to roll a brick around its way too heavy. I can't believe they would change the controls and not allow adjustments for the people who liked the first

  • Killquake

    I was one of the few who loved the first, i'm not a fan of this one. Feels like im trying to roll a brick around its way too heavy. I can't believe they would change the controls and not allow adjustments for the people who liked the first

  • KRise

    That monkey has died a long time ago... (no air supply in the ball obviously) and is just a monkey. in a ball. honestly when it came out it was cool but now it is old. Dead.

  • KRise

    That monkey has died a long time ago... (no air supply in the ball obviously) and is just a monkey. in a ball. honestly when it came out it was cool but now it is old. Dead.

  • Ender

    Had the gamecube version of SMB and the controls were frustrating there too. Seems like it had the same type of problems—you couldn't move fast enough, particularly in the Mario Kart-like multiplayer racing game (you'd keep falling off the edge of the track).

    • spiffyone

      That's part of the gameplay: coming to grips with the controls. It's what separates the good monkey ball players from the scrubs.

      And I'll mention one time and one time only (not only to you, but to EVERYONE else):

      You do NOT control the monkey in the Monkey Ball games. You actually tilt the game board. That's why control is what it is. You aren't turning the monkey itself (in the ball), you're tilting the board in such a way as to have the monkey turn in a certain direction. It's a subtle, but MAJOR difference, and one that so many seem to not pick up. That's why control is so difficult for some to grasp. Once they "get" the concept though, control becomes second nature. Slight movements are all that's necessary. Precision is key.

  • Ender

    Had the gamecube version of SMB and the controls were frustrating there too. Seems like it had the same type of problems—you couldn't move fast enough, particularly in the Mario Kart-like multiplayer racing game (you'd keep falling off the edge of the track).

    • spiffyone

      That's part of the gameplay: coming to grips with the controls. It's what separates the good monkey ball players from the scrubs.

      And I'll mention one time and one time only (not only to you, but to EVERYONE else):

      You do NOT control the monkey in the Monkey Ball games. You actually tilt the game board. That's why control is what it is. You aren't turning the monkey itself (in the ball), you're tilting the board in such a way as to have the monkey turn in a certain direction. It's a subtle, but MAJOR difference, and one that so many seem to not pick up. That's why control is so difficult for some to grasp. Once they "get" the concept though, control becomes second nature. Slight movements are all that's necessary. Precision is key.

  • jackson

    if its as good or better than the first one, count me in!

  • jackson

    if its as good or better than the first one, count me in!

  • Lum the Invader

    It would be nice if SEGA actually gave a damn about anywhere outside of the US and released this on the UK/EU app store. I guess they just don't like money.

    • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

      I'm in the UK and I've had the game since it came out. Maybe you missed it in the list?

  • Lum the Invader

    It would be nice if SEGA actually gave a damn about anywhere outside of the US and released this on the UK/EU app store. I guess they just don't like money.

    • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

      I'm in the UK and I've had the game since it came out. Maybe you missed it in the list?

  • EatKodosDaily

    I'm so conflicted...
    I really wish they had a demo I could try first.

    I mean, loads of people complained about SMB:BB for the Wii. Even I did. But I finally realized that the game actually was playable and fun. It's difficult as hell (I'm only on world 9, I can't unlock world 10,) but once you manage to get that kind of twitch reflexes necessary, it's tons of fun.

    • spiffyone

      Exactly. It's not an easy game to "get" despite the so-called "kiddie" atmosphere. It's actually a pretty difficult game to master, and that's mainly due to the fact that one has to first grasp the concept of not controlling the monkey in the ball directly, but rather controlling via tilting the game boards themselves which causes the monkey in the ball to move. Once that "ah ha" moment happens, everything starts to fall into place. The issue is that so many don't actually grasp the concept, and so tilt as if they are controlling the monkey directly, causing them to make movements that are not extremely precise.

  • EatKodosDaily

    I'm so conflicted...
    I really wish they had a demo I could try first.

    I mean, loads of people complained about SMB:BB for the Wii. Even I did. But I finally realized that the game actually was playable and fun. It's difficult as hell (I'm only on world 9, I can't unlock world 10,) but once you manage to get that kind of twitch reflexes necessary, it's tons of fun.

    • spiffyone

      Exactly. It's not an easy game to "get" despite the so-called "kiddie" atmosphere. It's actually a pretty difficult game to master, and that's mainly due to the fact that one has to first grasp the concept of not controlling the monkey in the ball directly, but rather controlling via tilting the game boards themselves which causes the monkey in the ball to move. Once that "ah ha" moment happens, everything starts to fall into place. The issue is that so many don't actually grasp the concept, and so tilt as if they are controlling the monkey directly, causing them to make movements that are not extremely precise.

  • Josh

    Nizy is right--this review has embarrassing spelling and grammar errors. Please TouchArcade, I'd rather write for you than cringe every few sentences.

    • japplayer

      who cares ? nobody read text anyway... look at the pic and click the vid

  • Josh

    Nizy is right--this review has embarrassing spelling and grammar errors. Please TouchArcade, I'd rather write for you than cringe every few sentences.

    • japplayer

      who cares ? nobody read text anyway... look at the pic and click the vid

  • japplayer

    wow 9.99 ? you american you are rich, here in japan smk2 is just 5.99, thanks SEGA :P

  • japplayer

    wow 9.99 ? you american you are rich, here in japan smk2 is just 5.99, thanks SEGA :P