When it came to deciding what I wanted out of the slim pickings that make up the 3DS' launch lineup, Sega's Super Monkey Ball 3D was pretty low on my list. I had loved the series' debut a long time ago, a masterpiece of skillful monkey-in-ball navigation on the GameCube, but regrettably, it was all downhill from there. Super Monkey Ball 2 on the same system showed many poor choices in level design, and if there was any doubt the series was totally directionless, Wii followup Banana Blitz—which I only bothered playing at E3 before turning away in disgust—proved it utterly.

So when Sega sent over 3D for review, I initially rolled my eyes. But here, in the launch window, anything that actually runs on the system is at least slightly interesting, so I decided to load it up and give it a spin, if only to give me a shot at some snark. I was pretty pleasantly surprised to find that 3D is actually a fairly competent monkey-rolling outing, hearkening a bit back to its proud roots—even if it doesn't really do enough to convince me it's worth the $40 asking price.

It's not quite good enough to touch that original, which is probably in part due to the fact that they decided to let you roll through the monkey mazes either with the 3DS' glorious slide pad or by utilizing tilt functionality—the latter demands level design sensibilities that are a bit different than those displayed by the original series entry, which had found itself more free to experiment with the concept without this limitation. And there's also simply not as many stages to roll through. But that doesn't change that they're all competently designed trials of skill, without a monkey-flinging leap of faith in sight.

You may wonder, and rightly so, whether it was worth it to add tilt control if it meant the levels must necessarily change. I can say "absolutely yes" to this question. Unlike the travesty that was the iOS Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 3D's tilt control is top-notch, polished to motion-controlled perfection. It's really quite pleasing to see someone get it this right out of the gate.

3D actually adds something to this game, too, though regrettably you won't be able to use it in tilt mode, since it shifts your viewing angle out of the sweet spot too frequently. But when playing with the slide pad, the depth perception adds visual information that actually seems to help with gameplay, which allowed me to get a visual concept of the path ahead in a much stronger fashion than I did with it off. If this is a taste of what's ahead for platformers and the like, I expect to really dig what others have to bring to the table. It's a pretty amazing feeling, even if I seem to have to set the 3D slider lower than I do with the 3DS' included titles in order to avoid double vision.

The real problem with Super Monkey Ball 3D isn't really its content at all, but the fact that its asking price is so high. Even knowing how good it was, I would still never drop $40 of my own money on this. There are 80 levels in all, and while replay value is fair with collectibles and high score challenges, it's still a game that feels like it's over and done with more quickly than it should be. I keep going back to the original title in the series, but that game nailed the level design and structure so well that Super Monkey Ball 3D can't help but look a little pale in comparison, particularly as the included Mario Kart and Smash Bros. rip-off minigames are definitely nothing to write home about.

But if, after that caveat, you're still interested, I recommend you sit tight for a bit and wait for the inevitable price drop. Somewhere south of $20 is a good price for Super Monkey Ball 3D; get it at that price and I think you'll enjoy it.