Review by Kowbrainz

Reviewed: 10/29/07

Monkeys make a good game. That's the rule.

With the release of the Nintendo Gamecube in 2001 came Super Monkey Ball. This was a peculiar title, as it had been developed by SEGA (long time rivals of the Big N – you’d know if you’d been a gamer before the days of Nintendo 64) but also because the gameplay was quite unique compared to anything gamers had played before.

Players controlled a monkey character inside a glass ball, and needed to guide the character to the goal in several challenging levels by tilting the board around them. Whilst the concept remained simple, the difficulty was another thing. The learning curve was steep and players could take hours trying to pass some of the later levels of the game.

Then came the release of Nintendo's intuitive new console, the Wii - and Super Monkey Ball made its return. It dared to take on Nintendo's new controller and see exactly what it could do to the Super Monkey Ball franchise with it. Whether they could use it effectively to breathe new life into the series... that was another question.

Monkeys? Every game’s got to have monkeys…
Whilst critics found Super Monkey Ball Adventure (this game’s predecessor) took a step back from the original in terms of the gameplay, Banana Blitz goes back to the roots of monkey ball and delivers with a superb one-player mode. Although it isn’t quite as hard as the first two titles in some respects, you’ll find that the difficulty ramps up at just the right pace.

Basically, the monkey gang are sitting down, idling their bunch of golden bananas when an evil pirate comes and steals them away. You'll need to progress through eight lush worlds if you want a chance of getting them all back again. I'm unsure why a story element was needed here, as it doesn't really provide anything for the game. You're controlling a monkey through a maze in a glass ball to get to the goal - there doesn't need to be a story for that.

The first two worlds get you settled with the fantastic new Wii-remote controls, but after the third second you’ll find the challenge steps right up. There were several moments during the later stages where I had to shut my windows to prevent the neighbourhood from hearing me yell profanities at the screen. This is a good thing, though – I’ve always been a fan of challenges, and when the challenge comes from carefully mapped out levels and moments of precision instead of just faulty controls (like I’ve experienced in certain other titles for the Wii) then it’s a sign that the crew developing the game knew exactly what they were doing, and knew just how to keep an average gamer hooked.

That’s exactly what Super Monkey Ball does – it keeps you hooked for hours on end with its seemingly-simple gameplay, and once you beat that level you’ll be jumping for joy, because it’s just that rewarding.

Gamecube or Wii?
Obviously if you’re already a fan of Super Monkey Ball’s gameplay, then this will already be on your wishlist (or on your shelf at home). But for those who haven’t gotten into the Monkey Ball series before - should they be buying the gamecube version or Banana Blitz?

You’d think that the gamecube versions, with their higher level of difficulty and larger variety of levels would be the pick today. That isn’t necessarily the case, and I’ll think you’ll find that after you’ve picked up this game with the Wii remote, you won’t want to play with an analog stick again. The Wii remote’s controls have been perfected here. I was amazed with the sensitivity of the remote when playing through the one player mode - even when it seemed like all was lost, I could pull back with the remote and save my monkey from falling to its doom. Whilst it gives a steeper learning-curve than an analog stick might, once you get used to it you won’t want to ever go back.

Kiddy Ap-peel?
Looking at the game for the first time, and there’s no doubt that Super Monkey Ball is overshadowed by a very ‘kiddy’ appearance. The game’s graphics are very colourful and vibrant, and can easily put off older gamers and make them think that the game is a title designed for children twelve and below. Booting up the game doesn’t help this claim either, as you’ll be greeted by an over-enthusiastic narrator, a bunch of laughing monkeys and a very bright and perhaps overly-colourful menu. A lot of the time these can be signals to very simple games devoid of challenging gameplay – games aimed at the younger, less experienced gamer.

SEGA proves this wrong with the gameplay of its one-player mode, with the sheer difficulty of some of its levels – most of which even self-proclaimed ‘hardcore’ gamers will have a decent amount of trouble with. Super Monkey Ball certainly isn’t something your eight-year-old cousin will be able to finish over a weekend; and I doubt you will, either.

Multiplayer Monkey Madness
SEGA really went the extra mile this time in terms of replay value. The multiplayer mode of previous Monkey Ball titles has been expanded, and now includes fifty minigames, giving it that extra party element. That’s almost as many minigames as you’d find inside a Mario Party title, so it’s anyone’s guess how they managed to fit them all in alongside the great one-player mode.

The games can vary from certain sports, to certain arcadey games like whack-a-mole and an asteroid shooter. Although there are a few games which haven’t been thought out too well (jigsaw puzzles, anyone?) there are still a fair few good-quality games packed in there, too. Monkey Racing was a favourite (tilt the remote sideways and go head-to-head for some Mario Kart-esque racing action), as was Monkey Battle, Disc Golf and a lot of the other sports titles (even though they may be remakes of Wii Sports games with monkeys).

The main gripe I have is that only a small handful of the minigames are of that good quality – the rest of them play and control like a pile of banana skins. Some will make you perform ridiculous acts with the wii remote and nunchuk in order to make a basic movement on screen, such as pulling the wii remote back and the nunchuk forward and vice-versa in order to move right or left. A lot of the games don’t respond well, either. I personally would have preferred it if they only kept a small handful of games, and then focused on doing a split-screen version of the main game’s levels instead. But that’s just me…

A true golden banana…
If you’re looking for something to expand your current Wii library, then Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is probably the game for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned gamer or a beginner who just wants to have a bit of fun, Banana Blitz is a great game and at least worth a try. You’ll be hooked for days with the ever-so-challenging one player mode, and get a true, rewarding sensation if you manage to beat the game. If you’re looking for a party game to play with friends, I’d recommend Wario-Ware; or perhaps Mario Party 8 if you’re into that kind of gaming experience. As far as one-player titles go for the Wii, though, this is one you’ll want to get.

Final Scores:
Presentation - 7
Story – 3
Graphics – 8
Sound – 8
Gameplay – 9

Overall: (not an average) 8.0

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (US, 11/14/06)

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