Review by DivXtrollet

"A step in the right direction, but not quite there..."


Monkey Ball originally appeared as a Japanese arcade game a little while back, the concept has since come a long way. In its current form you can only find mere traces of the series origin at the arcades. Considering Super Monkey Ball (SMB), and Super Monkey Ball 2(SMB2), you can see a clear pattern of evolution, increasing in complexity. Super Monkey Ball Adventure (SMBA) was the third game of the installment released for the GameCube since the original SMB took the world by storm. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (SMB:BB) was a part of the Wii launch line-up and is a perfect example of what type of gaming the Wii can be used for. Obviously the advent of motion sensitive control devices such as the Wii-remote is going to radically change the way we play this series of games, perhaps in the way it was originally intended by the creators.

Gameplay 8/10

Similarly but still unlike the previous games, you can choose to play either a main game or play party games with multiple players. To start with the main game there are several noticeable differences (improvements if you will) from earlier games. There are eight worlds (to start with), each containing eight puzzle mazes in which you have to reach the goal by tilting the board using the wii-mote and also stay within the time limit. Also in each world there is a bonus stage which you access after beating half of the eight puzzle mazes. All you have to do in the bonus levels is try to collect as many bananas as possible before the time runs out, collect all the bananas on a stage to receive a perfect score.

Once all eight puzzle mazes and the bonus level have been finished you gain access to the world boss (new to the series). To defeat the boss you have to hit them in a vulnerable (usually very obvious) spot, obvious in the big arrows generally point to where you are supposed to hit the boss. You are provided with a damage meter so as to see how much health remains on the boss. You as a monkey can not receive any damage, and the only ways to fail is to fall off the platform or let the time run out.

For added difficulty you can try to ''crown'' each world, meaning that you beat all eight + boss levels without using a continue (running out of monkeys/lives). This being necessary to unlock additional worlds and complete the game 100%. Mind you though, that levels start out easy, but quickly become very difficult, especially if you have not gotten used to the motion sensitive way of control. A very steady hand and a focused mind is required to beat this game, but even if you are unable to complete the hardest of levels you may very well enjoy yourself.

As for the mini-games, the developers have done things a little differently this time around. Instead of having 6-12 mini/party-games of fairly long duration, they have included 50 mini-games (none of which need to be unlocked). And these are substantially more shallow and short-lasting than what we are used to from previous games (even SMBA).

Out of the 50 party games i would say that about 75% of them are weak and seem as though they were put together in a hurry to meet a quota of fifty games. Some I even wowed never to play again since they were so purely frustrating (this mainly being the ‘'Frog Ball'' mini-game). But some personal favourites are: Hurdle Race, Bug Balance, Jump Rope and Monkey Snowboard. These and some more I find my self playing over and over until I become exhausted (especially from Hurdle Race which is very physical).

All in all, the single player of this game is far better than the multi-player aspect, although there is still hours of entertainment in the party-games as well, especially since the difficulty on some of the single-player stages border on the impossible.

Graphics 8/10

As usual, the type of graphics used in Monkey Ball games are colorful, bright and are of a happy mood, hence playing this is very refreshing. Whilst not being very realistic the graphics don't really need to be very much so, lighting and reflection is great and environments/backgrounds look generally sharp. Although not perfect, the graphical aspects more than suffice and compliments the gameplay nicely.

Sound 9/10

Filled with catchy tunes, Banana Blitz offers a great contribution to the world of video game ''artificial music''. You'll probably find yourself humming along to some of the world theme songs. And for some reason I associate the last part of the staff credit music much with an Iron Maiden type harmony.
A few world themes do get a little repetitive and redundant, these worlds oddly seem to be the same ones one is likely to become stuck at for longer periods of time. But generally the music fits astoundingly well to the themes of each world. Standout include Smooth Sherbet and Pirates Ocean.

When it comes to sound effects, Monkey Ball games do not really contain many of these to begin with, of course there are the monkey sounds (sometimes a little annoying but usually tolerable) and the ever panic-inducing hurry-up! voice recording. Otherwise sound-effects are well executed.

Replay Value 8/10

Given the fact that you have to crown several worlds in order to gain access to all the highest rated levels, I'd say that replay value is fairly high, there is however room for frustration, mainly around the control scheme. For that I have nothing else to say than ''Practice Makes Perfect'' and as long as you keep at it, nothing should be impossible in this game. The party games also add to the replay value, in that many of them allow you to keep trying to improve your record or compete with friends in a rather enjoyable way.

Conclusion (Buy or Rent)

Being a launch game of the Wii, Banana Blitz is sure to get you accustomed to the revolutionary ways of the wii-mote and is definitely worth picking up for fresh Wii owners. Even for people who are tired of Wii-sports having played it since release date should look into this game as it offers a different multi-player party system.

If you were one of the ones who thought SMB: Adventure was a step back from the previous games you will surely think that this game is a step in the right direction for monkey ball, although I feel that it fails to live up to past glory. However the ''Monkey Ball feeling'' is very much present.

Total Score: 8,25 - 8 out of 10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/12/07

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