My first Nintendo 3DS review is for Super Monkey Ball 3D, and it was published in The Daily Toreador.
The “Super Monkey Ball” games have sort of become staples of Nintendo hardware launches lately; first on the GameCube, then the Wii and now the 3DS.
The primary gameplay mode in the “Monkey Ball” series is a fun rendition of those old “ball in a maze” games you might have played with as a kid, where you have to tilt the maze in different directions in order to get the ball bearing to the goal.
“Monkey Ball” works exactly the same way, only with more fantastical settings, and you have to guide your monkey in a ball to the goal, collecting bananas along the way.
Why are the monkeys in balls? How to they collect bananas while in the balls? No idea. It’s best not to think about things like that. “Super Monkey Ball 3D” doesn’t answer those questions anyway.
For this new game, that main game mode works in just the same way, only you can play in 3-D without the need for 3-D glasses, which is the gimmick for Nintendo’s new handheld. The good news is that this works, and really well. “Super Monkey Ball 3D” is a good-looking game, with a lot of vibrant colors and some nice 3-D effects here and there.
You can control the game with the handheld’s “circle pad,” which operates just like an analog stick. This will probably be your preferred mode of play, and it works extremely well. Just move the pad in whichever direction you want to tilt the landscape, and you’re golden.
You can also opt to control the game with tilt controls thanks to the 3DS’s accelerometer technology, which makes it feel a little bit more like the Wii game “Banana Blitz.” The downside to this is you’ll almost certainly want to turn the 3-D effects of the game off when playing this way, as you need to look at the screen at a very specific angle in order to see anything other than blurry images.
Now, while the main game is fun, it’s also extremely easy and almost unbearably short. You can easily finish every single level in under two hours, and that’s not an exaggeration. You can go back to try to collect every banana in the level or collect a few items, but there’s a good chance you’ll get that stuff on your first playthrough anyway.
This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if the side content was more enjoyable.
Earlier “Monkey Ball” titles have been great party games in the past, with mini-games that were a ton of fun in multiplayer settings.
“Super Monkey Ball 3D” only has two side games: “Monkey Race” and “Monkey Fight.” These are a poor man’s “Mario Kart” and “Super Smash Bros.,” respectively. And I do mean poor. While you can probably get some enjoyment out of them, neither game feels well enough developed to warrant too much of your playtime.
Since this is a launch title for the 3DS, it’s understandable Sega probably had a very short time to develop this game and get it on store shelves. However, considering that, it’s a real shame they didn’t at least transport some of the better content from earlier games into this new release.
A sort of “greatest hits” compilation of the series’ best courses and mini-games would make the $40 price tag much, much easier to swallow, especially if online play was added.
As it is, while the main game is enjoyable and there’s some good use of 3-D, “Super Monkey Ball 3D” just doesn’t have enough content to make it easy to recommend.
It might be worth a rental, or it might make a great gift for a younger player who can be more easily amused for a longer period of time, but more serious gamers might want to look elsewhere for great games for their new 3DS.