Super Monkey Ball Review

Review by Nigel Wood

When SEGA announced at the iPhone SDK event that they were bringing Super Monkey Ball to the iPhone, I almost leapt off my chair with excitement, and when they then showed how similar in look and play it was with the console iterations, well, I almost fainted. In fact that presentation got everyone talking about how the iPhone could be, and will be a great platform for games.

I absolutely love the Super Monkey Ball (SMB) games, I mean what’s not to love about monkeys in balls?

SEGA first released SMB in Japan, in 2000, as an upright arcade cabinet called Monkey Ball (which featured a crazy banana-styled joystick!!). Later and more popular was it’s release on the Nintendo Gamecube as a launch title in 2001. It was a great fit for Ninty’s console and proved very popular, it has appeared on all of Nintendo’s recent consoles, such as the DS and Wii, and even appeared on PS2 and Xbox as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe).

The gameplay is a bit like marble madness. You manoeuvre your ball encased monkey around increasingly challenging courses until you reach the goal at the end, all under the pressure of a count-down style time limit. Later levels feature varying themes and landscapes as well as trickier routes and obstacles. You can play as four different monkeys; AiAi, MeeMee, Baby and GonGon. As well as the main game, the console versions included mini-games such as Monkey Billiards, Monkey Fight (a favourite of mine!), Monkey Target and Monkey Golf.

So, how does the iPhone version fair. Well, pretty successfully! It borrows its main gameplay mechanic from the recent Wii version, using motion control. My only control gripe being that there is no current option to calibrate the default rest position, so you are forced to play the game flat which can get a bit uncomfortable over time. The control of the ball is also a little on the sensitive side, so there might be a steep learning curve for beginners. I, however, like the challenge!

The graphics are great and really pop on the iPhone, featuring that great SEGA look they give all their games. The 3D engine works well and the framerate is pretty solid. However, I would have liked to see full 3D monkes in their balls instead of the 2D sprites.

The game features 110 stages over five worlds, which are further split over easy and hard modes. You unlock a new world after completing the previous ones on easy and hard. I would have liked to see the return of the mini games, and I’m a bit puzzled as to why SEGA left them out. Lets hope the next version of the game at least features Monkey Fight, or Monkey Target!


Presentation & Graphics: 9

Features the usual polished and arcady visuals from SEGA. Full 3D monkey’s next time please! 


Sound: 8

Cheesy but fitting music, may begin to grate. But overall good sound work overall.


Gameplay: 8

Get the monkey to the goal. Simple, addictive and challenging all at the same time. A great recipe for an iPhone game. Controls work well, but may be oversensitive for some, and a calibrate screen would be a welcome addition.


Game life: 6

If you can complete the game, which I doubt! You may find enjoyment from revisiting the levels for faster times and points. But eventually it will get repetitive. The inclusion of the original mini games would have made this game great!


Final iPGN Rating (8/10)

Last word

Super monkey ball is a great game that could be even greater with a few tweaks. It’s well worth the $9.99 price (the DS version was $29.99!) and a great example of the tilt control of the iPhone. One to show off to your PSP owning friends.

You can purchase Super Monkey Ball here: App store >

Below is the original SEGA presentation at the iPhone SDK event earlier this year.

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  • Pat Dunn

    This game is awesome. I paid $10 for it (Which I think is steep for any game) but I am still satisfied with it. It will be hard at first to get used to the accelerometer because 1) it is very quick and touchy, and 2) you control the level, and not the monkey. I saw someone give this game a 1 star for that and i wanted to slap them. People are dumb.
    Fun music and level designs although it is a very challenging game indeed