I remember playing the original Super Monkey Ball. I purchased it the same day that I bought my Nintendo Gamecube. You see, this was launch day for the Gamecube, and the selection of system launch games sucked, to put it mildly. I remember bringing home the system, Star Wars, and Super Monkey Ball. That night, I played Monkey Ball just slightly more than I did the former title. Over several years, it would seem that every major gaming system has received its own version of Monkey Ball. As a matter of fact, my wife and I ran into an arcade version of the title on our recent honeymoon. Now, with the advent of portable gaming in 3D without glasses, the newest incarnation of those lovable monkeys makes an appearance on the 3DS, but is it worth the full price of admission?
Super Monkey Ball 3D is a day-one launch game for the 3DS, and despite its charms, the game feels like a day-one title. The world of Monkey Ball 3D is light on narrative, but heavy on color and cuteness. You just may develop a craving for candy and bananas while playing this title. The three main gameplay modes in this game are Monkey Ball, Monkey Race, and Monkey Fight, with the last two modes offering multiplayer options.
First off, the 3D effect in this game is awesome. Environmental effects like snow and butterflies really make the game seem like another world. Most of the 3D effects in this game are taken advantage of in the main mode: Monkey Ball. To those unfamiliar with Monkey Ball, this consists of a series of stages made up of floating islands in the sky. You, as the player, will tilt the whole stage, navigating a monkey in a ball to a goal while collecting bananas and trying to beat the clock. The gameplay can be both addicting and short, perfect for brief gameplay sessions on the go. With the 3D effect on, the game really gives depth to the floating islands and the illusion of being very high in the sky.
However, many will find the single-player Monkey Ball to be short lived due to the stages being only about a minute long as well as a lack of challenge. Now, don’t get me wrong, this game can be challenging at times, but nowhere near the challenge of past entries in the series. You do have the option to play the game with the disk slider or you can utilize motion control, which allows you to tilt the stages by tilting the 3DS itself. Motion control is a cool feature, however the 3D is practically incompatible with this control scheme. You’ll keep losing focus on the screen, causing the visuals to devolve into a blurry mess. Many players will be forced to choose between motion control and 3D.
The other two modes in this game are Monkey Race and Monkey Fight, both of which can be played in both single and multi-player. It was nice of Sega to include a gamesharing multiplayer feature so that other players can join in on the fun without having to have their own copy of the game on-hand.
Monkey Race mode is very similar to Mario Kart, or rather, a demo of that title. With a very limited number of stages and loose controls, Monkey Race can really only be enjoyed with a small group of friends in a casual environment. Many of the special items are repetitive, adding to the shallow feel of Monkey Race.
The final mode is Monkey Fight, which and be summed up as a Super Smash Bros. clone (I’m seeing a pattern here). The goal of this mode is to have the most bananas before the time limit expires, while beating the crap out of the other monkeys in the process. Once again, this mode has a small number of stages and they all just seem static and lifeless. You can almost win this mode by avoiding fighting entirely. Focusing on banana collection, while keeping a distance from the other fighters seems to be a winning strategy, but defeats the point of the game mode.
Overall, Super Monkey Ball is enjoyable, even if it is a mixed bag. Super Monkey Ball 3D is full of charm while lacking in spirit. This game works best as a great demo for showing off your 3DS and a nice time waster while waiting for the train. In conclusion, paying full price for this title would be like paying for a T-bone steak and getting a Happy Meal, fun but unfulfilling.
Review copy provided by publisher.