Review by Sportsgamer19
"Are you up to the Challenge?"
First and foremost, this game shatters one of its expectations while falling flat on its face in an attempt to meet the other. For those of you not familiar with this series, it is known for being a very challenging puzzle-maze game with absolutely stellar multiplayer. In its latest installment, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, the levels are undoubtedly difficult, but the multiplayer is so terrible that the game would have been much better without any multiplayer at all. Lets jump right into the details.
In the outset, all the monkeys are at a party, when suddenly, an evil pirate-looking gorilla crashes their party and steals their golden bananas. This is all the game shows, and then you are off to the first world. Upon defeating the boss of each world, there is a short cut screen depicting the monkeys finding one of their golden bananas, which is nearly identical for all eight worlds. Upon defeating the eighth and final boss, their is a longer scene where your monkeys have all the bananas and are celebrating. Although many criticize the story, or lack thereof, in this game, I feel that it is better to have little storyline than to have the developers try too hard to make a story which is confusing and detracts from the actual gameplay. However, I decided to give this story an average score because many people would indeed have liked a more indepth story. The 5/10 story does not add or detract from gameplay.
Again, this is where I disagree with some of the critics of this game. The consensus is that the controls are too difficult to master, and are therefore lackluster. To these doubters, I believe they found the game as difficult as it was meant to be, and instead of practicing, quit and made the innovative controls the scapegoat. However, the truth is that the controls were wonderfully done with the wiimote's technology. The wiimote actually acts as the level itself, as you tilt it down to speed up, up to slow down or go backwards, left to turn left, and right to turn left. Also, new to this series is the ability to jump, which becomes a larger and larger aspect of the game as you progress into the more difficult levels. Although these controls are difficult to master, the game wouldn't be what it is if they had decided to either dumb down the controls or the levels. As implied in the title, when playing this game, you must be ready to confront extreme challenge and peril head on. Overall, I found the controls to be very responsive and accurate, with their only fault being the rather steep learning curve they require. The 9/10 controls significantly better gameplay.
Gameplay (single player): 10/10
The main game alone is worth the game's $50 price tag. There are 100 levels in this game, including 8 bosses (also new to the series) and 10 bonus levels. Your main goal in these levels is to roll to the goal, a task very simple in the early worlds, but a very taxing one later in the game. Every ten levels is organized into a world of stages which a specific theme. Upon beating four levels in a world, you go to the bonus stage, which is a level with the sole purpose to collect the 50 bananas before the time runs out. In these levels, there is no goal to roll to, just bananas. Upon beating the final four levels of a world, you go to a boss stage, which consists of a large enemy with a certain weak spot that you must hit, usually by jumping, all the while avoiding their attacks and staying on the usually small platform. When you defeat the boss, you have beaten the world and can play the next one. This pattern goes on for 8 worlds. But wait, there's more! The real challenge of the game is to crown all the worlds, meaning you beat the world without using a continue, which is what you use if you lose all your lives. Upon crowning all eight worlds, you unlock a ninth world, similar to the previous worlds, except with nine regular levels and no boss. Upon crowning the ninth world, you unlock the tenth world, which has identical structure to the ninth. When you crown all ten worlds, "you are the master of Monkey Ball" according to the game, and in my book, you are no less than elite. As far as a time estimate goes, there is a very wide range regarding how long it will take you to crown all 10 worlds. My estimate would be anywhere from 30-50 hours, maybe more or less depending on your experience with this series. All in all, the single player mode is absolutely stellar, and one of the most challenging experiences in recent memory. The 10/10 single player gameplay will keep you coming back for more.
Gameplay (Multiplayer): 3/10
This is the game's most glaring fault. Aside from the fact that there is no multiplayer in the main game mode, which was present in other installments in this series, the "50 Party Games" advertised on the box is just plain misleading. Of the 50 mini games, there are perhaps a dozen that you will feel compelled to play more than once. The others are either lame, confusing, or just plain broken. The multiplayer is so bad in fact, that I have been turning people away from this game who were pondering its purchase for its multiplayer value. It is very disappointing that a series so widely known for its great multiplayer would present us with such horribly done multiplayer features. The 3/10 multiplayer mode is a huge letdown, and an embarrassment to the series.
The graphics are by no means amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring, or in any other way a spectacle that would make your jaw drop. However, they do not hinder your enjoyment of the game either. The simple graphics are well suited to this simplistic game, as they were not intended to be a primary focus. The 7/10 graphics are adequate.
This was really a surprise to me. I did not expect such great music to be playing to, as this genre of games is not known for its music during gameplay. Each world has different music, and almost all of them are catchy, and draw you into the game. Most notably, the eighth world has met widespread praise for its unique and pleasing tune. The only downside is that each world's music is simply a continuous loop, which can get old after a while during 2-4 hour crowning attempts of the later worlds. The 8/10 music is very catchy, and definitely improves the game.
For me, this is the major draw of the game. It is one of the most challenging games in recent memory, and rivals Trauma Center for most difficult Wii game at the moment. Making the levels difficult was the primary focus of its developers, and they did a good job making the levels progressively more difficult, with few infuriating spikes. If you do not want a challenging game, I would not suggest this game, as mentioned in the title of my review. Not much more to say except that this aspect of the game is very well done. The 10/10 difficulty will grant you a fantastic sense of accomplishment after beating a level.
Replay Value: 7/10
This was a hard call due to the game's lackluster multiplayer games which were supposed to provide the game with a tremendous replay appeal. However, with a mediocre multiplayer, it all comes down to the main mode. I can tell you that if you intend to crown all the worlds, which I highly suggest you do, you will definitely be playing certain levels over and over and over again in order to master them so that you won't lose a precious life on it since you only have 3 in the outset. However, once you crown a world, there's not really anything drawing you back into it unless you wanted to collect all the bananas for it, or get a better time. The most important thing I want to convey is that if you just intend to beat the worlds, and not crown them, you may not want to buy this game, because you will be cutting your gameplay time into a third, and essentially eliminating any replay value this game would hold. The 7/10 replay value is significantly hindered by the game's multiplayer deficiency.
It's unfortunate that the multiplayer is such a wreck in this game, for if it wasn't, this game would be an easy 8, and possibly creep towards a 9. Instead, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is a mid-high 7 due to its great single player, intuitive controls, and enormous challenge. I recommend this game for people who are either fans of the series, or people looking for a very difficult game to test and better their skills. I do not recommend this game to people who want it for its multiplayer, or people who are not ready for a significant challenge.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/07, Updated 01/17/07
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