Review by NDS_Master

"This Time They're Not Monkeying Around"

In a chaotic world filled with pistol wielding madmen, mushroom guzzling plumbers, and speed demon hedgehogs, it's very refreshing to see something as simple as a monkey in a ball. That's what originally made Super Monkey Ball shine, and despite the occasional bump in the road, that's the premise that has kept the series going strong ever since. After a couple mishaps on various systems, the acclaimed series has finally made the next-generation leap and has landed on the Wii console, where the Wii remote adds in a new but delightful addition to the gameplay.

As any Super Monkey Ball fan knows, the basis for the game is incredibly simple: tilt the stage to make the monkey in a ball roll, and try to guide it to a goal at the end of the stage. In the past, this was accomplished using the joystick, but with the Wii, the entire controller now handles the job.

By tilting the Wii remote left or right, up or down, you simultaneously move the entire playing field. This causes the monkey to roll whatever direction the Wii remote is tilted, and the farther the Wii remote leans, the faster the monkey will end up rolling. Also, as a new addition, you can jump using the A button. While Super Monkey Ball veterans will quickly realize this makes many challenges much easier, it also provides for many new and harder ones. In the end, the ability to jump doesn't significantly help the game, but it doesn't hinder it either.

At the beginning of the game, levels start out incredibly simple to help users figure out how to use the controls. The first few worlds feature few obstacles and basic stage designs. Once you're past that though, the difficulty start to increase dramatically. In later worlds, you will have bizarre enemies to avoid, zany courses to maneuver through, and a plethora of obstacles to overcome. It will require an immensely steady and focused mind to roll your way across the last half of the game.

Each world consists of eight levels, a bonus level, and a boss level. Regular levels just have you rolling your way to the goal, while bonus levels let you collect as many bananas as possible (which give you lives) in a certain time limit and boss levels pit you against a massive boss you have to fight in an arena. A mechanical dinosaur and a mutant octopus are among the odd bosses, and these unique battles add another layer of variety and complexity to this game. Since the main game has 8 worlds, it provides 80 levels that should take about 6-10 hours to blow through.

Two bonus worlds also exist in the game, and their difficulty level makes them perfect for hardcore gamers. And to solidify their position as a challenge for the gaming elite, they are insanely hard to unlock. To go to them, gamers will have to beat each individual world without using a continue -- that means they can only fall off the stage about four times while trying to roll past ten levels (unless they collect bananas). With the later worlds, this is a meaty challenge, and it could take a few good solid hours of practice before you make it through. If you are willing to accomplish that task, though, you'll reward yourself with many additional hours of worthwhile gaming, which is enough to warrant buying the game instead of merely renting it.

Even with the main game, there are still 50 mini-games to add value to Banana Blitz. All the mini-games use the Wii remote to turn the Wii into a mad multiplayer machine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the games were thrown together sloppily without much care, and their incorporation of the Wii remote is typically horrendous. They might be fun to experiment with once or twice, but after that all but the most dedicated gamers will give up on them. Many have nice concepts. They just weren't executed well.

Thankfully, among all the filth a few gems do emerge, and you might find yourself playing these mini-games over and over again. There are some games that use the Wii remote brilliantly, and often times these are enormously fun. It will be a lot of trial and error to determine which mini-games you enjoy, and after you overcome the bad mini-games you will discover several that are highly worth your while.

Not surprisingly, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz also takes advantage of the Wii's nice graphics hardware in its level design. Unlike the previous games with super basic stages, Banana Blitz sets each of its levels in luscious worlds. One hour you might be rolling through pyramids in a desert land with cacti, and the next you might be accompanied by colorful mushrooms and amoeba-like foes.

The scenery, admittedly, is not that detailed. It does fit in well with the game's style, and it makes the otherwise bland levels very visually appealing. So, in the end, it does its job well. It's not photo realistic, but it doesn't have to be. The graphics work brilliantly with the game, and that's what matters.

As for sound, it is weak in this game. That's not to say it is bad, but it just doesn't have the quality or variety that some might expect. Each world has one specific song that goes along with it, and in every stage of that world you will hear the same song over and over and over again. Even the stage selection menu has the same tune! You won't escape a specific melody until you have completed the world it is associated with.

Fortunately, the music continues even when you die or complete a stage, so you won't be forced to listen to the intro dozens of times if you keep dying on a level. And each song is catchy and fun to listen to; the sound quality might not be superb, but it's not torturous either. As far as sound effects go, well, they're basically as good as they can be considering the game mainly only consists of a monkey rolling in a ball.

When it comes to incorporating the Wii remote into gameplay, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz is amazing. The Wii remote, basic as its use may be, adds a breath of fresh air into the franchise, and by combining that with Super Monkey Ball's classic style the developers have created a worthwhile title. If you have a steady hand, lots of patience, and a drive to succeed, the 10 worlds filled with gameplay will make this an excellent purchase. If you aren't willing to give the sweat and blood needed to unlock every single world, you still may enjoy this game, but it would be better as a rental. It's your choice.

Gameplay: 7.6
Graphics: 7.7
Sound: 5.3
Innovation: 7.2
Length: 7.2
Overall: 7.4

Rent or Buy: Varies

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/29/07

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