Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Not Impressed

When the iPhone Standard Developer Kit (SDK) was announced, many companies and individual developers got really excited. Longtime gaming company Sega saw this as a great opportunity to create a game that's perfectly suited to the tilt controls included in the iPhone's feature list.

Before the iPhone Application Store even debuted in July 2008, a working demo of Sega's Super Monkey Ball was shown at an Apple event, and it was said to have been created in about a week.

Let's take a step back. In 2001 the Nintendo Gamecube received a game called Super Monkey Ball, which was a port of a Japanese arcade game by the name of Monkey Ball, released in 2000. You played as a monkey in a ball (go figure) and the goal was to control the ball as you navigate around a twisting platform suspended in the air while collecting banana icons and trying to get to the goal. It was supposedly a ton of fun, but I never played that version.

Sega was right to recognize the iPhone as a perfect platform to port Super Monkey Ball to, since the concept lent itself greatly to being controlled by tilting the phone right to move the ball right, tilting left to move it left, and tilting it forward to accelerate. Super Monkey Ball debuted on the App Store on August 27 at $9.99 to much hype and fanfare. It even reached #1 on the top 10 paid apps list and stayed there for quite a while.

At the time, there still were not very many games to choose from, and there was no "norm" price for this type of game, or any app for that matter. People were a little annoyed by the controls in Super Monkey Ball for iPhone, but since it was one of the only games out there, they took it in stride because no standard had been set yet. This and the hype surrounding it for weeks prior kept it at the top spot on the app store.

Two updates, five months, and a $2 price drop later, I actually became curious about whether it had improved, but I didn't want to spend the $7.99 just to test it out. By then I'd played many great games on my iPod Touch, and wasn't sure it would be worth the $8 for this previously imperfect game.

Well, thanks to the free Lite version released in January 2008, I've been able to find out what the deal is. I'll give you the bottom line now: Don't get this game. Unfortunately, if you were going to get this game, you've probably already gotten it. And I am sorry that you did. And you are probably sorry as well. I don't know what they fixed between the 1.0 and the 1.0.2 versions, but it doesn't seem like anything.

The game is not fun and it feels like a slight little tilt in any direction sends your freaking monkey spinning in a circle. Somehow, for a game that took a week to finish and has had months to perfect, Super Monkey Ball for iPhone is terribly broken, and boy am I glad I was able to try it for free. I gave it a shot. I really, really did. But in the end, I can't recommend this at all.

In the future, my negative reviews will be much shorter. But history lessons are so much fun, aren't they?

Super Monkey Ball: Wikipedia link, AppShopper Link