|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sega||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sega||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Preview by Vaughn||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Vaughn Smith
It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since Sega's Super Monkey Ball crashed the GameCube launch titles and gave us something truly different. The arcade-style "easy to learn, insane to master" gameplay which involved moving your spherically-challenged primate from point A to point B is completely reborn on the Wii system thanks in no small part to the Wii-mote motion sensing capabilities. Banana Blitz plays like an entirely new game, although you'll be instantly familiar with the concept if you've played any game in the series previously. The single player game will provide hours of entertainment while the party-flavored mini-games will keep you coming back for more.
To get back into the swing of things, I decided I'd monkey around with the single player game first. You'll remember that SMB was based around one control - the analog stick - which when under the influence of talented players, could lead those darn monkeys up embankments, down slides, over bumps and across moving platforms. Banana Blitz is essentially the same, although the addition of a jump manages to change the mechanic quite a bit. Unfortunately for analog stick purists, Banana Blitz is all about the Wii-mote. You'll use its motion sensing to move the ball now and while this completely changes the feel of the game, it's entirely for the better. Playing SMB with the Wii-mote may take some adjustment but it's worth it.
Tilting the Wii-mote up and down or from side to side, duplicates the action on screen so that your monkey ball "monkies" your every movement. The motion sensing is incredibly responsive which gave me a whole new level of respect for the technology on display here. If you require a slight roll to the left for example, a little rotation of the wrist to the left will provide you with your intended result. Naturally this does take some time to get used to, and those who have shaky dispositions will most likely find Banana Blitz infuriating. As mentioned, jumping joins the fun and you'll wonder what you ever did without it.
The levels begin easy enough, and even the rankest amateur will sail through two levels - there are 8 levels in total each with a quantity of puzzles. The first thing you'll notice is the level structure has evolved for the better. The levels are longer and are teeming with shortcuts for those players who like to live dangerously. You'll have to have mastered the art of monkeyballing before attempting these new paths as the challenge ramps up enormously when side-tracking off the beaten path. Once you reach the third and fourth levels you'll face more aggressive puzzle challenges, some of which will threaten to destroy your last remaining nerve. Even when you're cursing the demons at Sega for devising such incredibly hard levels, you'll still be having fun; until you hurl your Wii-mote against the wall in a move I have dubbed "That'll teach you, you rotten %$#@!" Another $45 later for a new Wii-mote and you'll be back playing where you left off, happily on your way to another $45 purchase. Perhaps you should buy a few controllers while you're at the store. You know, save a trip and all that rot.
Not to be outdone by the single player game, the monkeys have 50 multiplayer mini-games for you and some friends to play with. Most of you will remember that the original SMB featured some party games and while they were a little weak, they did the trick. The mini-games in Banana Blitz run the gamut from hilarious entertainment to "Who okayed this one?". Like Mario Party, they can't all be winners. Most of the mini-games require just the Wii-mote, but there are a few that require the nunchuck as well. We all know keeping all of these controllers around adds up fast in terms of monetary investment, especially when some of them have accidentally been thrown at the wall at top speed. Hmmm...must be those darn angry poltergeists again. If you do manage to have 4 (working) Wii-mites and 'chucks around the house, you'll have a lot of fun when company comes over. Much like Wii Sports though, the novelty of the mini-games does wear thin after awhile, but they're a welcome addition.
Boss battles also join the fun and even though they spice things up a bit, I found them to be rather forced and predictable. If you've ever beaten a boss in your gaming career you already know that you'll need to exploit some inherent weakness, only this time you'll have to use a monkey in a bubble to accomplish it . The camera will fight you far more than the controls during these little escapades and thus they tend to be a little trickier than they need to be. I guess I'm a little saddened that for a title that was so completely original (if you ignore the existence of Marble Madness of course) Sega decided it was necessary to toss in some familiar video game trappings. I think Banana Blitz would have been just fine without them.
Monkeys in balls rolling around colorful landscapes doesn't require the visual glitz of Gears of War, but this title definitely shows off the Wii's graphics power. The levels are bright and sharp, featuring wonderfully cartoony landscapes. Like Rayman Raving Rabbids, Banana Blitz exhudes fun just by looking at it. It won't take long for someone sitting on the sidelines to ask for a Wii-mote, just don't forget the $45 deposit in case one of those pesky poltergeists possesses them and makes them javelin throw your property against the nearest obstacle.
Multiplayer got a ton of action on one side of the room, but the other side saw the single-player mode in action as well. Players will complete different Race and Trick Challenges to advance through the story, unlocking different environments and boards as they progress. One thing that the attendant noted was that, while the nine different racers all have different stats to begin with, the real focus in upgrading your character will be in the board selection. Each deck has specific statistics attached to them that will drastically effect how you handle the sweeping turns and killer jumps.
Banana Blitz makes for some great entertainment, alone and with companions. You might not find yourself drawn to playing it for hours on end (ala Zelda) but it will be one of those you go back too often, just to try it again. If you've given up on the series after the car accident we call Super Monkey Ball Adventure, it's time to get back on that horse...ball....whatever. The level of difficulty definitely heads off into the stratosphere in the later levels, but if you've possess a strong will and an unshakable foundation that doesn't sweat or twitch uncontrollably when attempting to balance across a thin beam miles above solid ground, Banana Blitz could be your kind of game.
CCC Site Director
Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii..... Banana Blitz makes forcing cute monkeys into spherical plastic containment devices, or "balls" fun again! by Vaughn Smith
May 12, 2006 - Although we aren't sure just how much fun regular monkey ball is, we do know that Super Monkey Ball is a thrill a minute due to it's eye-popping colorful levels and easy to learn, yet hard to master balancing act gameplay.
If you haven't played Super Monkey Ball yet, we implore you to try it. It involves using the analog stick to roll your monkey ball to the end of the level goal while collecting bananas. The levels start out innocently enough, but soon graduate to rolling hills, moving platforms, rail thin walkways and other hazards, all the while floating miles above the earth. The games floaty movement can definitely cause motion sickness in some, so be mindful of this when playing. Let's just say when you start projectile vomitting, it might be time to put the controller down, okay? Hey, I read the emails some of you send and trust me when I say I'm assuming some of you need a lot of things spelled out quite clearly.
If there is a better system to evolve Super Monkey Ball as wii know it, it's got to be Nintendo's Wii. If you've played any of the previous SMB games (not Super Mario Bros....) you'll know that getting those cute little primates to go where you want them - especially on those insanely difficult later levels - can be extremely challenging. Now imaging having to use the Wii-motes motion-sensing technology to move your monkey around the environments. Dave and Lindsay tried their hand at SMB for the Wii at E3 and were quite impressed with how much fun it was.
The old adage "you can't teach an old monkey new tricks" is thoroughly disregarded, as the imprisoned primates have learned to jump in Banana Blitz. That should really make things interesting. More puzzles and party games will also be coming your way. We're not sure if Banana Blitz will make it out in time for launch, but for SMB fans everywhere, we bet it can't come soon enough.
CCC Site Director