Super Monkey Ball 3D Review (3DS)

Game Review: Super Monkey Ball 3D
Release: March 27th 2011
Genre: Puzzle-Platformer
Developer: SEGA
Available Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $39.95
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Website: Super Monkey Ball 3D Official Site

Super Monkey Ball’s newest iteration on the Nintendo 3DS is by no means a shock. Since the birth of the franchise on the Gamecube almost a decade ago, those spherically challenged simians have rolled onto every Nintendo platform to date. This time, however, they’re in 3D. Is that a good thing, though, or an obvious ploy to try and suffuse some life into a franchise which may be staying out its welcome? Let’s find out.

So, as I said, this is a Monkey Ball game. There are three modes – Monkey Ball, Race and Fight – all playable in 3D. Monkey Ball is the usual course-by-course adventure mode. Monkey Race is a Mario Kart-style rip-off that places your ape into a go-cart and throws the usual item boxes, speed pads and zany obstacles at you which any decent kart racer would. If Race rips of Mario Kart, then Fight could be seen as a Smash Bros. clone. You fight three other foes in hopes of smacking the bananas out of them (literally, I’m afraid) and getting them all for yourself.

Monkey Fight is ultimately a game of luck and frustration, with no sense of accomplishment even if you do manage to overcome the frustrating AI.

In terms of controls, it’s all decidedly similar to previous games. The 3DS allows a hybrid of choices, however, to match your preferences. The system’s brilliant new circle pad allows for your normal console-style 360-degree movement control. You can also utilize the 3DS’s gyro-sensor and tilt the game world, a choice that sacrifices the 3D visuals due to the fact moving the system such a way breaks the field of vision needed for the effect.

Having been in on the series (okay, I may have missed a Gameboy port here and there) since buying the original the day I euphorically purchased my Gamecube, there was undoubtedly a sense of nostalgia the first time I slid this one into my 3DS. The 3D effect is nice, but not turned up to full throttle. I found my eyes resting easier when the 3D slider was closer to the “Off” position, but still managing to get a nice sense of depth as my monkey rolled around the levels.

The pop-up-like story book sections that mark the beginnig of each world offer a great showcase for the system's 3D. And proof that Paper Mario will look fantastic in 3D.

But, for a series so well-known for being chock-full of mini-games (despite said games mostly having horrid mechanics), Monkey Ball 3D is perplexedly barren. You have three modes, with time-trials and leaderboards in each, but that’s it. The single player adventure is over pretty quickly (80 levels go by quick when each must be beat in under a minute) even when searching for every banana. Although some may argue that it has a hint of replayability for that same reason. But the other two modes are poor imitators of greater games, and while hinting at the possibility of solid franchise entries in those series (Smash Bros. 3D? YES), they are almost completely disposable.

Mitchel’s Final Say

The bottom line here is the price. If you’re reading this, you’re undoubtedly looking for a decent mobile Monkey Ball game (or perhaps a decent mobile puzzle game in general). Apple’s iTunes store offers versions for both the iPhone and iPad that are under five bucks, have more levels, mini-games and unlockables than this $40 retail title. It’s still a little perplexing when put in that context, but it’s the truth. It’s a novel concept to look at this candy-coated world in 3D, but it’s not a concept that’s worth $40 of your money. If you’re dying for another game to see in 3D, rent it. Otherwise, join the ever-growing club waiting for Zelda and Kid Icarus.

Monkey Race is certainly no Mario Kart, but if you're really in need for a 3D kart racer, it may tide you over.

+The 80 courses (72 normal + 8 bonus) found in single-player consist of all-new levels and no recycling from previous iterations of the series.

+The storybook aesthetic really melds well with the 3D effect

-A series known for its increasing difficulty and robust cornucopia of modes sees its easiest and most barren release yet

-Despite my hedonistic nostalgia, there is undoubtedly a pervading sense of “been there, done that” throughout the entire game.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

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