Super Monkey Ball games have a history of being launch titles for Nintendo consoles. The original game was a launch title for the Gamecube back in 2001, and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz launched alongside the Wii in 2006. And even though the series has been rolling downhill faster than any ball-enclosed monkey ever could, the trend continues with Super Monkey Ball 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. Although the 3D effect looks great, there's just not enough content in Super Monkey Ball 3D to keep you entertained for long.
For those who have never played a Super Monkey Ball game before, the basic concept is pretty simple: you tilt the world in order to move a monkey in a ball from the beginning of a stage to the end. Each stage has a time limit, meaning you have to move fairly quickly. Go too fast, however, and you risk falling off the stage. There are also bananas to be collected in order to gain extra lives and obstacles, such as bumpers, to be avoided. There are 80 levels in total, which can unfortunately be ploughed through in no time at all.
There are two different controls schemes that players can choose in Monkey Ball mode: circle pad or motion sensor. Both options are tight and responsive, allowing you to have nearly perfect control of your monkey ball. Unfortunately, with the motion sensor option, it's nearly impossible to play with the 3D enabled, as it's so easy to lose the 3D "sweet spot." It's a shame, as the 3DS's gyroscope offers some of the best motion controls I've ever used in a video game.
There's no online functionality in Super Monkey Ball 3D, which really hurts the game's replay value. With no online leader boards, it's hard to find the motivation to keep replaying the game's 80 levels, unless you like trying to just beat your own scores. There are two additional games modes to play (Monkey Fight and Monkey Race) but both are pretty terrible.
Monkey Fight is a Super Smash Bros. rip-off where the monkeys have broken free of their transparent prisons and have decided to duke it out. Four monkeys fight at the same time in order to collect bananas, and whoever has the most bananas when the time runs out wins. The entire mode feels like it was thrown together at the last minute, and is just not fun. The fighting consists of you simply mashing the buttons to try and collect bananas. When you get knocked down (which happens a lot) you have to mash B to get back up. And when your opponent grabs you, you have to mash B or A in order to fight them off. There are only three stages in Monkey Fight, and a couple of different rule sets, though all of them are equally bad.
Monkey Race is a Mario Kart rip-off that, while not as bad as Monkey Fight, is still not much fun. The 3D effect looks really cool while racing, and there is a good sense of speed, however the controls are really bad, and there's just not much depth to the gameplay. There are three sets of races to choose from, but you can't pick specific courses to race on. And with a lack of online leader boards or the ability to play against people online, racing the computer over and over grows old very quickly.
The 3D effect in Super Monkey Ball 3D, at least, is very well done. Specifically in the Monkey Ball mode, the 3D not only looks good, but is useful as well. Judging distances is much easier thanks to the depth perception provided by the 3D effect. And the way the entire stage moves in 3D looks really cool the first time you see it, especially for fans of the series. The graphics in the game are colorful and vibrant, but overall are pretty simplistic. Before each world, there is a cute pop-out book-styled animation, which does a good job at showcasing the system's 3D effect.
Overall, there's just not enough content in Super Monkey Ball 3D to justify the purchase. The only mode worth playing is Monkey Ball, and although it is fun, it doesn't last very long. Both the 3D effect and motion sensor controls work great, but they can't be used at the same time. And no online functionality really strips the game of any prolonged use. Unless you're a Super Monkey Ball fanatic, this one's a pass.