Super Monkey Ball

At WWDC, Apple had SEGA come back for a second appearance to show off their flagship iPhone game, Super Monkey Ball. Needless to say, when the App Store hit, this was one of the most highly anticipated games available. Naturally, there were a few questions about how the app would perform on the iPhone. Sure, it looks great, but is it? I have to say that, after playing this game over the course of a few days, it definitely lives up to the hype, and then some.

Super Monkey Ball consists of guiding one of four monkeys encased in a ball around various suspended maps consisting of dangerous short walls and delicious bananas. The goal is to grab as many bananas as possible and make it to the goal without falling off the edge of the map. Additionally, a time limit is applied to the gameplay to ensure you don’t go too slowly. As the game progresses, the platforms get thinner and walls start being subtracted, making gameplay more difficult.

Initially, the game was impossibly difficult. I had quite a bit of trouble directing my monkey in any sort of logical path. Simply keeping on the platform was a challenge. However, I eventually started to understand just how sensitive the iPhone’s accelerometer really was. As time went on, I was scooping up bananas and making it across difficult platforms with ease.

But hey, rather than talk about it, I figured I’d make a video:

As you can see, there’s a definite learning curve to this game. As the SEGA guys said, the iPhone certainly offers a suitable method for controlling the monkeys. But after a bit of time with it, I can certainly say that the SEGA guy makes this thing look easy. Trust me, there’s a definite learning curve.

I have only a couple issues with Monkey Ball. First, since this is a 3D game, it sucks juice like crazy. I’d say you can get about 2 hours of full-on gameplay before your battery starts to get low. That’s to be expected, but there’s no way to view your battery’s health from within the game. From what I can tell, there’s no way to save your progress between stages, either. Otherwise, this thing rocked. The graphics were fantastic, framerates almost never dropped, and it handles voicemail and SMS messages by conveniently pausing.

Tips:

  • While watching a stage fly-over, tapping and holding the screen will speed things up

  • If you want to listen to your own music while playing, start a song before opening the game and bring up the on-screen music controller immediately after opening the app. This will let you resume your music once the game progresses past the splash screen after it pauses.

Although the game can be quite challenging, especially when you first pick it up, it somehow keeps your attention with its whimsical environment and music. While I expected to become frustrated quickly, I found myself playing nonstop, laughing out loud, and fully enjoying every moment of gameplay. It’s truly wonderful.

If you’re looking for a great example of what a fully immersive and enjoyable iPhone game should be, look no further than Super Monkey Ball.

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