Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz Wii
Published by SEGA
Developed by SEGA
Release Date: Out Now
The original Super Monkey Ball was one of the best console launch titles I’ve ever bought. Even now (almost 5 years after its release) I still play and enjoy the game. Few would argue against it being regarded as one of the best GameCube titles. Unfortunately the original Super Monkey Ball was as close to perfection as the series has ever been. Super Monkey Ball 2 was disappointing to some degree because a lot of the levels relied on chance rather than skill. Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll on the Nintendo DS just didn’t get the control system right. Finally Super Monkey Ball Adventure saw the series decline even further and was simply a big disappointment. Can Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz turn things around and be just as fun for Wii owners as the original game was for GameCube owners?
Super Monkey Ball Blitz has two main modes. There’s the single-player Main Game and the multiplayer Party Games mode that is comprised of 50 mini-games for 1-4 players. The Main Game mode is where you’ll initially spend most of your time. You’ll find various themed worlds that each contains eight challenging levels, a bonus level and a boss fight. In each level, the basic idea is to get from your start point to the goal. This is easy to begin with but the levels soon become challenging with all kinds of obstacles in your way. Once you’re done with the Main Game you’ll want to move on to the Party Games mode and with 50 games on offer, most of which don’t require the nunchuck attachment, there are bound to be a decent amount of them you’ll enjoy playing with your friends.
The basic premise is the same in the single-player portion of Banana Blitz as it was in the original Super Monkey Ball and its sequel. However, there are a few differences. Two new characters have been added. Doctor and YanYan join AiAi, MeeMee, Baby and GonGon. You can swap between these characters at any time, so if you think a certain stage would be easier by having a different monkey, the heavier GonGon for instance, you can select him for that mission and then return to your original choice for the next stage. Rather more important is the ability to jump. Pressing the A button will cause your monkey to jump and it’s something you’ll have to do quite often because the levels have been designed with the jumping ability in mind and this does make the game feel quite different from the original Super Monkey Ball games. Of course, as we’ve already mentioned, there are now boss fights awaiting you at the end of each world. The boss fights are pretty straightforward affairs with you being required to hit the boss in a certain place. You’ll need to use the jump ability to reach these spots though and more often than not you’ll need to avoid certain obstacles before you are in a position to hit the weak spot.
The control system represents the biggest change to the series. Instead of using an analogue stick you’ll have to use the remote. You simply tilt the remote downward to roll forward; the degree of the tilt will determine how fast your monkey rolls. You’ll have to tilt it upward to slow down or roll backward. To turn left and right you’ll have to turn the remote to the left and right and of course you’ll press the A button to jump. You don’t use the nunchuck at all in the Main Game mode but there are some mini-games in the Party Games mode where a nunchuck is required and there it’s used in a multitude of different ways. For the most part the controls are actually quite good. I personally don’t find the controls as precise in the Main Game mode as it was in the original Super Monkey Ball and its sequel, but for the most part it’s good enough. Boss fights can be disorientating though thanks to the game not giving you any ability to control the camera and the camera angles generally going wonky at the most crucial times. During some of the mini-games the controls don’t feel very responsive at all, where in others they are excellent.
On the whole the single-player game in Banana Blitz is good but unfortunately it’s rather short lived. With the game having 50 mini-games on offer though the brevity of the single-player game shouldn’t be much of a disappointment. However, the quality of the mini-games leaves a lot to be desired. For every good game there are at least nine that you’ll never play more than once. The old favourites, Monkey Bowling, Monkey Golf and Monkey Target etc. have returned but neither of them is as enjoyable as they were in previous versions. Monkey Target in particular was superb in the original Super Monkey Ball but here it seems like an afterthought. Monkey Golf is equally disappointing as is the Jigsaw Puzzle, Rock-Paper-Scissors Attack, Simon Says, Treasure Submarine, and many more besides. Monkey Race isn’t bad and Monkey Snowboard is also acceptable. The best game by far is Monkey Wars, which offers a deathmatch experience with a Super Monkey Ball flavour. On the whole the quality of the mini-games is disappointing and I personally would suggest they come nowhere near the quality of the mini-games that are in Super Monkey Ball and its sequel.
Graphically Banana Blitz looks quite good and the game looks slightly better than the versions that appeared on the GameCube. The game still has a cartoon-like appearance that suits the mood of the game perfectly. The game isn’t particularly high on detail but it doesn’t need to be. Both the load times and the frame rate are impressive but it’s to be expected since the game isn’t that much better looking than the original GameCube games. The only real problem is the camera angles during boss fights which, as we mentioned earlier, can be a real pain during the boss fights.
Deaf gamers won’t have any problems with Banana Blitz. Apart from the announcer’s comments (for which words are shown) there’s no speech in the game. The monkeys give their usual grunts for which there are no captions but this isn’t really a problem. All tutorial messages are in text and you’ll receive text instructions for every mini-game and these instructions can be recalled at any time by holding down the + button and selecting how to play instructions from the menu. The Wii remote speaker only has interface sounds and other trivial sound effects playing through its speaker and there’s nothing here that will inconvenience deaf gamers.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz does represent an upturn in the fortune of the series. Previously the quality of the Super Monkey Ball titles had been going downhill, with Super Monkey Ball Adventure being its lowest point, but thankfully Banana Blitz almost sees a return to form. The single-player game is enjoyable and certainly offers the best Super Monkey Ball experience since Super Monkey Ball 2. However, the single-player game is rather short. The quality of the 50 mini-games varies wildly ranging from the excellent Monkey Wars (this would have been great if the game had supported online play) to the disappointing, such as Monkey Target and finally descending to the absolute rubbish, such as Simon Says. In short Banana Blitz is a good game, enjoyable in parts but sadly, when it comes to some of the mini-games, disappointing. It’s one of the better Wii launch titles but doesn’t manage to attain the high standards of the original Super Monkey Ball.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz manages to get the series back on track with an engaging single-player game and a multitude of multiplayer mini-games. It could be better though. There are far too many mini-games that aren't up to standard and the single-player game is a little on the short side.