Super Monkey Ball 3D
I'll admit, I never quite understood the appeal of the Monkey Ball series. But whether I understood it or no, that didn't stop sales. Super Monkey Ball has been available on every major system I can think of for years, each tailored to the strengths of whatever platform it happened to be on. Over the years, while the main game has always been a monkey in a ball on a track collecting bananas, there have been a bevy of side games to keep players interested. However, for some reason, Super Monkey Ball 3D only offers three game modes, and of those, only one is even worth playing.
The main monkey ball mode is the real attraction of Super Monkey Ball 3D. You can play it using either the analog pad or by using the system's motion control. Each control type has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the game rewards you for using both. The analog pad is more precise, and lets you keep your eye directly on the action, giving you vivid 3D views of the track. The 3D was so intense that I had to scale the slider back to make it comfortable. The motion control is more immersive, but practically requires you to shut off the 3D in order to view it, as there's no way for you to stay in the viewing sweet spot as you twist the 3DS around. The tracks themselves appear to be easier than some of the more recent Monkey Ball games, meaning that even if you love the series, you won't find much challenge here.
The second mode is a racing mode that will be familiar to anyone who's ever played Mario Kart. In fact, it will be so similar that you'll feel you're playing a second rate knock-off of Mario Kart, and you'd be correct. The 3D, though, is potentially even more impressive in this mode, with huge racing tracks filled with obstacles whizzing by. This would be exhilarating if not for the fact that the controls are not nearly responsive enough. Getting knocked off the track for any reason will almost ensure that you get stuck near the bottom of the standings. You can play this game with other people (using multi-card or download play), but that presumes you can find other people who even want to play it.
The third and final mode is yet another Nintendo rip-off, this time in the form of Super Smash Bros. You play as one of four monkeys fighting to see who can get the most bananas. You've got regular attacks, special attacks, guards, and more, but the whole thing feels too slow. Unlike Super Smash Bros, where the fighting is fast, furious, and something is always happening to change the game, here it's quite easy to grab up the lion's share of the bananas and hop away to one side of the arena, away from the action. And that is generally what you'll want to do, because every time I tried to hop into the middle of the action I found myself getting beat on from all sides.
It's really a shame that Super Monkey Ball 3D is so disappointing, because it does have a lot of charm. The whole thing is themed like the player has uncovered an ancient tome, and a lot of the stages have appropriate stage dressing. The Aladdin track in particular is really nice to gawk at. But once you actually have to interact with this world, you're being set up for disappointment. While Super Monkey Ball was never one of my favored series of games anyway, Super Monkey Ball 3D is sure to be unsatisfying even for the hardcore fans.