Super Monkey Ball 3D is something of a mixed bag. It has a fun (albeit short) main game, a decent Mario Kart clone and a bad Smash Bros. clone. Its saving grace would be its use of 3D, but even that has some problems.
Past Super Monkey Ball games gave you some pretense of a story, but not Super Monkey Ball 3D. There’s not even an attempt at a story to give you a reason to play through the main game. Instead you are simply tasked with picking a monkey and guiding it through various, increasingly-difficult stages without falling off the edges of the level. There are 8 worlds with 10 levels each to play through. This mode works really well with the 3DS’ 3D technology, as it really helps with the depth perception needed to prevent accidental falling. It works so well that I found myself shifting my head to try to see the level from a different angle, which unfortunately had the side effect of destroying the 3D and causing me to lose a life. In the end, I could only play it in 2D mode because of that subconscious need to adjust my viewing angle. Unfortunately, in 2D mode the graphics aren’t that great.
In Monkey Race, the Mario Kart clone, the 3D works well yet again, and the racing works very much like Mario Kart, complete with random items that can be used defensively or offensively. The only real problem this mode faces is a lack of replayability and variation. There are all of 9 courses in 3 grand prix. That lends itself to being a one-and-done game mode.
The last gameplay mode is called Monkey Fight, and it is definitely a substandard Smash Bros. clone. Rather than be solely about fighting, the 4 player fights focus on who collects the most bananas, which you get by picking them up around the stage, or by beating out of your opponents. The 3D in this mode is just annoying, as is the fighting. I found myself avoiding fights completely, just jumping around the levels picking up bananas from the other monkey fights. That actually served me better than fighting did as far as collecting lots of bananas. Like Monkey Race, it suffers from a lack of variation, as there are only 3 stages available for fighting, and they all have very similar layouts.
The sound design in Super Monkey Ball 3D is mediocre. The sounds are about on par with the rest of the games in the series, almost to the point of being directly ported from previous games.
As mentioned throughout, the 3D is a mixed bag. In some cases it is done very well, but for the most part you’ll likely want to play it in 2D, if you are anything like me.
If you really, really like Super Monkey Ball games, then this is the launch title for you. Otherwise, you’d probably be better off passing on it for a different game.
Pros: Well-done 3D in the main gameplay mode, main mode is fun and challenging
Cons: 3D has issues at times, no replay value, very little game for the price