Review

I believe I owe SEGA a massive apology, not only was I foolish enough to bag Super Monkey Ball 3D when I previewed it at the Sydney launch event last month, but I also didn’t even look around the menus enough to rectify the biggest problem I had with the game. Come launch, and I’ve got myself a copy of the full game and thankfully I’ve had quite a bit of fun with it. All the issues I had have since become all but lingering thoughts that I hope will never return. But just how good is Super Monkey Ball 3D? Well, I’m here to explain to that to you, right now.

Super Monkey Ball 3D is one of the best looking launch titles available for the Nintendo 3DS thus far. It boasts extremely smooth visuals, a silky smooth framerate at 60fps (even while running in 3D) and an adorable artistic direction that makes everything look similar to candy. Yes, I just compared the environments to candy, but that’s really the best way to describe it. Everything is bright and colourful, and super smooth too with no real jagged edges on the models or environments. Without a doubt this is one of the most visually impressive games I’ve encountered yet on the 3DS.

Thankfully, the 3D effects are utilised to their full potential too, although this may cause a bit of motion sickness for some players when combined with the very smooth framerate. Still, I managed to play many extended sessions at full 3D without any problems, which is a plus. Everything pops out at you and even in some very fast paced instances random sparks and particles appear to be jumping off the screen, which is a nice touch. The only real downside with the 3D is when players opt to use the gyroscopic control scheme, which I briefly talked about in my preview. It’s near impossible to use the gyroscopic controls and maintain that “sweet spot” for the 3D without looking like an epileptic and moving your whole body. Still, besides this little nit-pick, the game really does look wonderful.

Super Monkey Ball 3D consists of three different full-featured gameplay modes, which include the classic Super Monkey Ball style of game, a Mario Kart-style racing game and finally a Smash Brothers style game. It’s pretty easy to see what the developers are trying to do here, and for the most part, these games do function pretty well as a temporary replacement while we wait for the real thing. The main attraction is obviously the traditional Super Monkey Ball mode.

During Super Monkey Ball mode, players must navigate a flat surface, collecting as many bananas that are scattered around the surface, before reaching the goal. As the name would suggest, you take control of a monkey who is rolling around this surface in a plastic ball. In order to move, players will have to tilt the surface to roll the ball around the area, collecting items and then finally reaching the goal. It’s a very simple premise, but the simplicity of it is what makes it so great, with some very awesome almost puzzle like setups being presented in the later stages. Players have two choices in controlling their character for this mode, either with the Circle Pad or with the built in gyroscopic sensor. Both work well, but the gyroscopic sensor has a bit of a downfall, as previously discussed – it seriously interferes with the 3D. Thankfully, using the 3D at full blast with the Circle Pad is generally a much smoother experience and I preferred using it anyway, though those who want to use the gyroscope should rest easy knowing it’s extremely accurate once you get used to it, and it’s a nice different way to play should you get bored. It’s also nice to see the leaderboards separated for the two control methods, although since these are not online or anything, it’s not like it matters much anyway.

The more secondary experiences thrown onto the cartridge are a Mario Kart clone as well as a Super Smash Brothers clone. Neither of these modes are particularly compelling, but they do provide a nice diversion and are somewhat enjoyable in multiplayer. Monkey Race has all the components you would expect, including power ups that can seemingly turn the tide of a race within seconds. There’s a nice selection of characters and cars available, though it ultimately feels as though these have no bearing on who wins or not, as most of the game is controlled a bit loosely. Kids will definitely love it, but the more sceptical gamer will see straight through it. Monkey Fight, on the other hand, provides a Smash Bros-esque experience, with players scrambling to have as many bananas at the end of a battle as possible. This means grabbing enemies, shaking them with button mashes, as well as eliminating multiple enemies with super moves that are seriously identical to Final Smash attacks from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

While these modes are definitely welcome additions, it’s really hard to see them as adding value to the overall product, which is a bit of a shame considering how much it’s retailing for at some stores. With ten levels in each world and around seven to eight worlds on offer, Super Monkey Ball 3D offers a lot of variety but unfortunately not a lot of challenge (until the VERY end) or length. We managed to plough through the whole game within roughly two hours, which is a little bit disappointing. Combine this with the fact that the game doesn’t really use any of the new 3DS functionality such as StreetPass or SpotPass and we’re just a little bit disappointed. Collectibles are available for completing levels, but unfortunately do nothing besides being there to be collected, which seems a bit mundane.

The soundtrack is a great and upbeat eclectic mix of tunes that really add to the tension during some of the more tense scenes, while the sound effects that crescendo as players increase speed, and subsequently pulls the player into this massive sense of excitement.

Super Monkey Ball 3D is by no means a bad game, it’s actually really good. But the amount of content on offer doesn’t really justify the price you’ll pay for it, it seems a little more suited to be broken into chunks and offered as a downloadable title for the eStore when it eventually launches. But still, what you get on the cartridge is great fun and it has to be commended for that, especially since it manages to stay both fun and good looking at the same time. Grab it if you can get it cheap, but definitely don’t pay full price for it, there’s just not enough worthwhile content here, unfortunately.

Graphics 8.5

Some of the best on the 3DS out of the initial launch line up. Everything animates at a great framerate, even in 3D. Smooth edges on the models and levels themselves give the game a very clean look. 3D is utilised amazingly, particularly in later levels.

Gameplay 7.0

Its classic Monkey Ball gameplay as you know it, and it plays very well too. The circle pad controls everything precisely, while the gyroscopic sensor is a nice touch but unfortunately renders the 3D absolutely useless. Extra mini-games are nice but really leave no lasting impression.

Sound 7.0

A nice beat of fast paced music and excellent sound design put Super Monkey Ball 3D above the rest, for now at least.

Tilt 5.0

With only two hours worth of gameplay available in the main mode, its a bit disappointing to see it all over so fast. A lack of proper utilisation of some features, including StreetPass is a bit disappointing too, though local multiplayer and download play for the side-games may interest some players. There are collectibles, but they are very superficial in their implementation.

Value 6.5

I was having heaps of fun with Super Monkey Ball 3D, until it ended so abruptly. The lack of content here makes me a little sad.to its presentation. In its current state, its hard to recommend at the prices its available for now, but I am certain youll have fun just not in great quantities.



About the Author

James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.