Super Monkey Ball 3D review

The 3D looks great! Everything else... not so much

GamesRadar+ Verdict


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    colorful 3D

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    The traditional Monkey Ball levels

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    Uh... I got nothing


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    Finishing the main game in under an hour

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    Monkey Race

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    3D sacrificing tilt controls

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Big sigh: Super Monkey Ball 3D seems to have the same problem as every other 3DS launch game. They keep making us think “Did developers find out about Nintendo’s new handheld at the same time we did?” I mean, less than a year of development would sort of explain the incredibly short length of playtime in launch titles like Pilotwings, Steel Diver, and once again, in Super Monkey Ball 3D. However, it doesn’t make it any more excusable.

Above: Just like you remember, but over in an hour

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the meat of SMB 3D. It’s goddamned Monkey Ball! You know what you’re getting, and the series’ trademarked level design, with its rudimentary shapes and vibrant color palette, make an awesome little 3D showcase that I dug immensely. The gameplay hasn’t changed a bit, yet Monkey Ball’s triumphant return to a competent analog stick is a welcome one indeed.

Thing is, the game’s a bit easier to progress through this time around, and outside of the difficulty found in the final two (of eight total!) worlds, you’ll breeze through the game and there’s next to no reason to replay those levels ever again.

Above: This Tron inspired level and another based on a haunted house are incredible standouts in 3D

The added dimension is a wonderful reason to revisit the ‘naner grabbin’, level shifting formula, but its biggest problem is that you can do it ALL in under an hour. Is that worth $40?! Of course it isn’t, and neither is almost everything else tacked on to the launch title in an effort to justify why it costs $37 more than the iPhone version. It’s unfair to compare this game to a mobile version, you say? Fine, that’ll save me from having to talk about the worthless tilt controls, which you can’t use in conjunction with 3D anyway, arguably one of the game’s saving graces.

Above: A clearer view, although one you’ll never see in a Monkey Fight

No, the biggest knock to the game’s final score is the other two expanded mini-game modes which range from “Who Cares?” to inexcusable dogshit. Monkey Ball’s take on Smash Bros is a confusing mess that I wouldn’t have even bothered to play for more than a single round if I weren’t reviewing the game. Everybody looks identical amidst the punch-n-jump chaos, it’s ridiculously complicated, and the winner holding the most bananas at the end of the round may as well have been chosen by lottery. Perhaps it’s more fun for multiple players? I wouldn’t know, because no one in the office cared to play longer 60 seconds.

Above: A wonderful visual analogy

Monkey Race mode is virtually unplayable. I can wring a little fun out of even the worst Mario Kart clone, but with its horribly unbalanced AI, atrocious track design, and some of the most infuriating, game-ruining power-ups known to man, this race is almost impossible to win. It made me wonder why I ever liked Mario Kart, and more importantly, why the developers didn’t focus on cranking out more of the time-tested traditional stages.

Above: Yuck

What works Super Monkey Ball 3D is just that: 3D and Super Monkey Ball. Unfortunately, that fun is pathetically short-lived, and everything else is a poorly executed afterthought that makes the $40 price tag borderline insulting.

Mar 29, 2011

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