Has Monkey Ball become this bad?
The first console Super Monkey Ball on GameCube was a revelation. The single-player puzzles were a test of precision and skill, and the multiplayer games were great fun in a party setting. Unfortunately, Sega's latest entry in the Super Monkey Ball series, Super Monkey Ball 3D, doesn't have well-designed puzzles, and the periphery modes, limited to racing and a pitiful Smash Bros. rip-off, aren't fun.
The standard monkey-in-ball rolling levels are split up into eight worlds containing 10 levels each. The bite-sized worlds are great for a portable setting, but unfortunately, the design of these levels is either insulting easy or awful. Instead of being based on skill, they're based on avoiding or dealing with inconveniently placed obstacles, such as patches of sand, that slow the game down. Every so often, there is a clever level that is reminiscent of the original well-designed Monkey Ball levels, but it's not worth slogging through the other levels to get to them. The difficulty, for the most part, is low, though the final worlds do pick up.
Fortunately, the controls work well for this mode. The Circle Pad continues to prove its worth as an analog stick replacement, and even the motion controls, which make use of the system's gyroscope, work well, though they make the game a lot harder.
The other two modes, Monkey Race and Monkey Fight, are new twists on old modes from previous games. Monkey Race is similar to Mario Kart, with a variety of characters, karts, and races to choose from. The controls for this mode are baffling. To drift, you have to brake with the B button to skid, and then hold the R button to spin around in a circle and charge your boost. Not only is it awkward, it just doesn't make sense.
Furthermore, the items in this mode echo the obstacles in the main game. All they do is slow you down. There's the disco ball that brings your character to a dead stop, and the 3D glasses that take up the entire screen and make it impossible to look at the road. It's just poor design, and this mode, even with the local and single-card multiplayer, isn't worth being a Mario Kart stand-in until Nintendo releases their 3DS version. You're better off playing Mario Kart DS again.
Monkey Fight is a piss-poor Smash Bros. clone, complete with Final Smash-esque attacks. Instead of knocking rivals off the stage for victory, it's focused on collecting bananas. The combat feels sluggish and the controls are unresponsive. Also, it's too chaotic to keep track of the bananas on screen and who collects them. Like Monkey Race, it features four-player local multiplayer, but also like the other mode, it's not worth your time.
Super Monkey Ball 3D is a mess. Sega appears to have forgotten how to make a good Monkey Ball game. The puzzle levels are uninteresting, and the two multiplayer modes are extremely poor rip-offs of Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. I can't recommend this game for anyone.