PREVIEW: Super Monkey Ball 3D (Nintendo 3DS)

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When Super Monkey Ball hit the Gamecube back in 2001 (2002 for European readers), it was a vibrant, wacky breath of fresh air. Placing cute little monkeys into hamster balls, you were given a whole load of modes to play with, from traversing obstacle courses to multiplayer races, battle arenas and flight challenges.

And while many new modes have been added with the introduction of numerous sequels and spin-offs, it’s unarguably been a case of diminishing returns with each successive title. Can the Nintendo 3DS’s 3D visuals re-ignite the franchise?

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From our brief hands-on play through it’s hard to say, but it’s not looking wholly positive. The game remains as bright and colourful as ever, but the cartoon visuals do little to push the system to its limits. The Monkey balls control very well, turning on a dime when using the analogue stick, and also seemed very responsive when using the 3DS’s motion-sensitive gyroscope to tilt and turn through levels.

But herein lies the problem, the blame of which does not wholly lie with developers Sega. Super Monkey Ball 3D acts to highlight a fundamental limitation in the 3DS hardware configuration. It is nigh on impossible to use the motion controls and effectively view the 3D visuals at the same time. Rotating the 3DS to roll the ball around the courses means you regularly move out of the autostereoscopic screen’s sweet spot, resulting in game breaking flicker.

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Scale back the 3D intensity slider and you counteract the problem, but that’s kind of defeating the point, isn’t it?

There seems to be, as ever with Super Monkey Ball games, still loads of fun to be had despite this considerable hiccup. We particularly enjoyed the “Fight” mode, pitting four monkey’s against each other on a 2D plane Super Smash Brothers Style and asking you to literally beat the bananas out of each other.

Good, but not great at this late stage, perhaps someone at Sega can “monkey” about with the 3D/motion control combination to make it more palatable before launch. They’d be “bananas” not to. Sorry…

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Gerald Lynch