Go ahead — say it out loud: “Super Monkey Ball.” Got a grin on your face? That’s because the phrase “monkey ball” is inherently amusing. But try to roll these spherical simians across 10 levels in a row with your iPhone, and that smile may turn twisted, contorted with rage.
Super Monkey Ball on the iPhone is a truly novel concept — the game’s controlled entirely by tilting the phone, with only the occasional tap of the screen for menu options and to speed up a flyby of the map. Unfortunately, with no way to turn down the overly sensitive accelerometers in the phone, your monkey will often veer out of control and fall off the stage.
Beating this game’s 100-plus levels requires the steady hands of a surgeon, and it’d be much easier if you didn’t have to beat 10 levels in a row to save your progress, or if there were some way to tone down the tilt controls (like using the touch screen as a hand brake). As it is, this game rides a fine line between the joy of experiencing something new and some old-fashioned, break-your-iPhone frustration.
The game’s visuals are nice and sharp, and the sound effects are fine if you don’t mind the constant screeching of monkeys plummeting to their doom. Still, the game handles like everything’s coated in greased lightning, resulting in an extraordinary level of difficulty. As a showcase for the iPhone’s new gaming capabilities, Super Monkey Ball is an important first attempt, but developers should take heed — it’s important to balance challenge with usability.
Played on an iPhone.