Twelve years ago in Japan a game was released in arcades called Monkey Ball.
The premise was simple: instead of controlling the game’s main character (or characters since you could choose from three different monkeys) you actually used the banana-shaped joystick to tilt the level, thus making the ball roll in different directions.
The objective was to reach the goal at the end of each stage before time ran out while collecting bananas along the way for points and potentially extra lives.
Again, it’s a simple premise but apparently a successful one as over the course of the next twelve years we’ve seen several different games and ports in the series, and today we’re going to look at the latest release in the franchise: Super Monkey Ball 3D.
If you’ve played any of the previous Monkey Ball titles then you’ll know what to expect from the game’s main mode. By selecting Monkey Ball you’re taken to a screen with five options: Challenge, Replay, Practice, High Scores, and Collectibles. The meat of the game is Challenge Mode, where you select one of four monkeys (AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon) and take on seven different worlds with ten stages each. Your goal, as in other Monkey Ball games, is to get from the start to the goal within sixty seconds while collecting bananas and avoiding obstacles. Collecting thirty bananas nets you an extra life while either falling off the stage or running out of time make you lose a life.
The game offers two control styles: using the circle pad or the motion sensor. The circle pad offers a control style similar to previous Monkey Ball titles. Moving the circle pad forward, back, left, and right tilts the stage in that direction and your ball rolls accordingly. Using the motion sensor gets the same effects when tilting the 3DS up, down, and to either side. When I first got the game I played the entire first world using the motion controls. Despite how fun it was to rotate my 3DS all over the place to stay on the stage without falling off, I found that using the circle pad was more accurate. On top of that, if you like having the 3D effects on, then using the motion sensor is pretty much out of the question. Take any application or game for the 3DS, turn on the 3D effect, and tilt the system in any direction and you’ll see how hard it is to see what’s happening on the screen. While the motion controls are fun to play with, I find myself using the circle pad as it helps with turning tight corners.
Each stage is littered with obstacles to avoid that can make your life miserable. Thankfully there aren’t too many obstacles to worry about and once you learn how to get around them safely you should have no problems with the later stages. The most annoying obstacles you’ll come across are the bumpers. These look like small wooden logs sticking out of the ground with spikes on them and they come in two varieties: bumpers with a small black band and bumpers with a small blue band. The bumpers with the small black band are the more common of the two and are found in the majority of the stages. When you run into them with your ball you bounce off of it at an angle, more often than not right off the stage. At first they’re not hard to avoid, but in later stages they’re placed in more precarious places that require pinpoint accuracy to avoid. The blue-banded bumpers on the other hand, while rare to see, are more deadly as touching one of them will more than likely bump you right off the stage with no chance of hanging on. The only other obstacle you’ll come across (other than some blocks in the road or sandy terrain that can slow you down) are what appear to be rocks on the ground (or clumps of dirt, it’s kind of hard to tell). Hitting these at a slow speed won’t do much but slightly toss you around a bit, but hitting them at high speeds can not only toss you around, but pretty much completely throw you off your path. While not as annoying as the bumpers, they still shouldn’t be taken lightly…or quickly.
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