• Super Monkey Ball 3D Review Nintendo 3DS

    Super Monkey Ball was, for many, the shining light of the GameCube launch titles. Since then there have been updates, evolutions and additions to the formula that have met with commercial success but less critical acclaim. At first glance the 3DS launch title looks like it takes a back to basic approach to win the hearts of portable gamers, but is it too stripped back to bother with?

    Unfortunately the answer is yes. The presentation, graphics and sound are excellent, AiAi and companyís journey is presented as a charming storybook that makes the journey seem more exciting than it turns out to be. The worlds and levels are vibrant, clean and relatively varied with some excellent use of 3D, particularly when you pass under a bridge and it "pops" overhead to add great depth to proceedings. Special mention should go to the music, which does a fantastic job of highlighting the surround sound effect of the 3DSís speakers, an underrated hardware feature indeed. That is where the good news ends though, almost everything else about Super Monkey Ball 3D is disappointing.

    To kick things off there is literally no challenge to the main game. It starts off easy, as it should, but the difficulty refuses to pick itself off the floor; there are harder levels in the beginner stage of Super Monkey Ball than any of the levels in the 3DS edition. Many of the levels feature barriers to stop you falling off the sides, there are no death defying leaps to take, no barreling runs of speed and dexterity to test your abilities and no tiny teetering ledges to give you the risk reward balance that made previous monkey rolling games so great. Arguably there are three main culprits for this.

    Culprit one Ė feature shoehorning. The 3DS slider does a brilliant job here and cannot be faulted in its application. You get a good replication of accurate analogue control and you never feel like you arenít fully in charge of your balls. The gyroscopic control method on the other hand, is a bit of a mess by comparison. While it works as accurately as you would expect it to and it is better than many iOS games that use the same input method it will never be precise enough that a player would feel confident testing their skill with it. Couple this with the 3DSís requirement that you keep your head still to see the sweet spot, leading to a lot of ghosting if you move around too much, and its inclusion seems baffling.

    Culprit two Ė launch title fever. To be first on day one will usually guarantee elevated sales. As already mentioned though the original Super Monkey Ball did this on the GameCube and it was astounding. Perhaps the developers simply didnít have the same length of time before the rush to market but the lack of content at 80 (incredibly easy) levels and two barely playable mini games reeks of a launch day gold rush.

    Culprit three Ė handheld syndrome. It can be argued that you canít enjoy the same level of experience on a handheld system as on a dedicated home console. It can also be argued that you can, provided the developers have faith in their target market. With the 3DS here and the PSVita on the horizon this lazy approach to handheld game development has got to stop. If Capcom can get Super Street Fighter 4 and Nintendo can get Ocarina of Time running perfectly on the 3DS, Sega should be able to at least port a fully fledged Monkey Ball title.

    To account for the sins of these culprits Dimps and Amusement Vision seem to have placed more emphasis on the banana collection aspect of the stages, rather than the tight speed running that made the series great in the first place. You can go back and collect a few hidden (but still blatantly obvious) tokens and all the bananas for bragging rights but it is difficult to recommend because it is even easier the second time around and no more entertaining.

    You could spend some time playing with the Mario Kart and Smash Bros clones included on the cartridge but neither are enthralling. Monkey Race has such a odd control scheme that it quickly becomes tiresome, no kart handles with the consistency of its source material. Monkey Fight quickly deteriorates into waiting until the timer nearly runs out before whacking the monkey with the most bananas at just the right moment to sneak into first place. Considering the plethora of mini games available in other Monkey Ball titles their inclusion does little to justify the price of entry.

    All said and done Super Monkey Ball 3D is a disappointment. If we do see further installments on any platform Sega would be wise to return the series to its roots properly. Instil a sense of challenge, achievement and danger to the rolling adventures and put AiAi back where he is supposed to be; falling through the sky because the player has slipped up because of a lack of skill and not a boredom induced coma.

    Score: 3/10

    + Good use of 3D to improve immersion
    + Good use of 3DS sound capabilities
    + Monkeys in balls are cool

    - Ridiculously easy
    - Too short
    - Bare bones extra games
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. abigsmurf's Avatar
      abigsmurf -
      I would love to know how much time developers actually got to work on the launch games.

      Given Super Monkey ball probably already had an ARM engine coded and lots of assets, how tight must the dev schedule have been for it to be so minimalist?
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