Super Monkey Ball 3D
Sega's primates fail to evolve in this weak launch effort.
Of all the 3DS launch games, Super Monkey Ball 3D is the most disappointing. Sega had a great opportunity to make a huge impact, as it did with the original SMB on GameCube, but the publisher dropped the ball with a title that feels hastily cobbled together.
It's a shame, because the enjoyable Monkey Ball formula remains intact. The primary mode has you guiding one of four monkeys (AiAi, MeeMee, Baby or GonGon) through seven imaginative worlds, tilting each stage to collect bananas and reach the goal without plummeting over an edge.
What's more, the circle pad controls are both tight and responsive; mistakes never feel like the game's fault. We just wish we could say the same for the tilt controls. Physically maneuvering the system doesn't work, largely because the screen resolution diminishes at dramatic angles, prohibiting you from seeing a clear view of the action. Taking this a step further, you can forget about tilting with the 3D effects turned on, since you must stare directly into the handheld to achieve that sense of depth.
Our biggest complaints with this mode, however, involve difficulty and length. We tore through the first four worlds in less than an hour, only dying a couple of times. Sure, we didn't collect every banana, but come on. Most casual gamers won't care about snagging each piece of fruit, and Sega never imposes a penalty for leaving some behind.
The game becomes more challenging at the fifth world, Dragon's Journey, but at that point, you only have 30 levels remaining. That means you have another hour or two, at best.
To keep things interesting, Sega included two bonus modes (both of which support local multiplayer for up to four gamers), but they feel like distractions and lack polish. The first, Monkey Race, works similar to Mario Kart, as you speed around tracks collecting weapons to use on rivals, but it's nowhere near that game's quality, and getting hit with something will knock you from first to last in a hurry.
Monkey Fight, meanwhile, reminds us of Super Smash Bros., where you and up to three other monkeys pummel each other while collecting as many bananas as possible. Not a bad idea, but the zoomed out camera makes it tough to see who's who.
As for the 3D effect, the game looks impressive in the third dimension, where dragons, magic lamps and bananas pop off the screen, but some objects get in the way, forcing you to adjust before making a critical error. Overall, though, it's one of the better 3D supported titles in the launch lineup.
That, however, doesn't save Super Monkey Ball 3D from being an empty experience. Had Sega included more levels and modes (Monkey Target and Bowling), this could've been one of the 3DS' premier games. Instead, it fails to live up to the series, and should only receive a purchase if you find it on the cheap.
What's Hot: Excellent use of the circle pad, varied and attractive worlds, traditional Monkey Ball style of play, looks cool in 3D.
What's Not: 3D effect useless with sub par tilt controls, not enough levels, lackluster bonus modes.