Super Monkey Ball 2 [iTunes Link] is now available for the iPhone. There is good news and bad news, and yes, some of it relates to App Store policies which are out of developers' hands.
I bought the original Super Monkey Ball [iTunes Link] for US$10 on the first day the App Store was available (July 10, 2008, for those who might some day want to win a trivia contest). I had seen the demo and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I also bought Bejeweled 2 [iTunes Link] for $10 on that same day.
Bejeweled 2 is now selling for $3 and the original Super Monkey Ball is selling for $4. If you ask me, Bejeweled is a steal at the price, and the original version of Super Monkey Ball isn't worth $0.99. It was far too "twitchy" for my taste. I tried everything to steady my hands, but I was never able to get enough precise control to be able to enjoy the game. In all the time I've had it, I bet I've played it less than an hour. Every time I tried, it ended quickly in frustration, usually with my shouting "Drown, stupid monkey! Drown!"
I wasn't alone in my frustration. Macworld's first look at Super Monkey Ball 2 begins with this look back:
"The original Super Monkey Ball was an App Store launch game and sold like gangbusters. Taking advantage of the iPhone's accelerometer controls and already possessing a huge following thanks to its console success, Super Monkey Ball was one of the most highly anticipated apps on the iPhone.
The only problem was: it wasn't very good."
Macworld went on to say that Sega had (at that point) not announced a cost. Part of me deeply hoped that they would release it as a free update. As I see it, there are two big remaining flaws in the App Store (ignoring, for the moment, the whole approval process): 1) the lack of demo versions (either timed or number of launches), and 2) no way for developers to provide for upgrade pricing. That means that there is no way for people who bought Super Monkey Ball to get a deal on Super Monkey Ball 2. That left Sega with two choices: 1) release it as an update, meaning anyone who bought Super Monkey Ball would get it for free; or 2) release it as a separate app, meaning that anyone who bought v. 1 has to pay full price for v. 2. The App Store does not give them any other choice.
We saw this recently with Tweetie 2, but there is a significant difference: Tweetie 1 was $3 (and worked fine, well worth the price, so no buyer's remorse there). Tweetie 2 is only $3. Super Monkey Ball was $10. Super Monkey Ball 2 is $10 (well, $9.99). Given my experience with Super Monkey Ball, would I risk another $10 on Super Monkey Ball 2?
Before you start telling me how expensive it is to develop for the iPhone, let me say that I understand and appreciate all the arguments. I am not someone who thinks all the apps in the App Store should be free, or even $0.99. But I'm also not someone who wants to throw away $10 (or even $5) on another game I'm never going to play, which is why I keep hoping that the App Store will support demos so we can try before we buy.
TUAW was provided with a review copy* of Super Monkey Ball 2, which I downloaded and played for a while last night. The result? Version 2 is much more "playable" than version 1 ever was. I tried it on my iPhone 3GS and was able to fairly easily complete the first level without any of the frustration I had come to expect. The new version boasts 115 stages, and will even let you play against up to 3 other players on a local Wi-Fi network. There is a new "mini-game" called Monkey Bowling, and "Monkey Golf" and "Monkey Target" are due to be released next year, presumably as free additions/upgrades. Sega also added a little indicator to help you figure out how to "balance" your monkey, which is very helpful.
As much as it frustrates me to have to spend another $10 to get what I expected out of the version that I bought over a year ago, I have to admit that this version is much better, and is well worth the purchase price. I should note that a few reviewers on iTunes mention that they have not been able to get the game to work at all for them. It has worked without any glitches for me, but if you do experience problems, I would recommend deleting the app, rebooting your iPhone (or iPod touch) and then reinstalling the app.
Super Monkey Ball 2 delivers more fun than a barrel of.... well, let's just say it's a lot of fun. Download it from the App Store (75mb).
*TUAW is commonly provided with not-for-resale licenses or promo codes to permit product evaluations and reviews. For more details, see our policy page.