Reviewed: December 1, 2006
Released: November 19, 2006
Perhaps it was a simple case of being overwhelmed with too many launch titles, but the first time I played Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz I hated it. I thought the single player was ďbrokeĒ and the mini-game were ridiculous and not that much fun Ė of course that was after coming off a few consecutive days of Rayman Raviní Rabbids, so what mini-game could stand a chance? But I kept at it and forced myself to keep playing, and whenever I had people over I would fire up those mini-games, and eventually Banana Blitz became an acquired taste.
Iíve never been a huge fan of the entire Monkey Ball series, but there is something that is quite addictive about the motion-control input that now offers smooth tilting of the Wii-mote to precisely adjust your roll and the all-new Monkey Jump that has been a long time coming. While I can usually tell if I am going to like a game within the first 10-15 minutes, it took nearly two hours before Banana Blitz won me over, but it was worth the effort.
I think a big reason for my initial prejudice going into this review was my horrible experience playing Super Monkey Ball Adventure, so you will all be glad to know that this game is nothing like that steaming pile of monkey doo. Instead, Banana Blitz is more of an homage or sequel, if you will, to the older Monkey Ball games, only with better graphics and more intuitive gameplay.
Even if you go into this game with an open mind you will still have an unexpected learning curve, especially if this is one of your first Wii titles. Banana Blitz makes excellent use of the new motion-control abilities of the Wii-mote, and with a bit of practice the rolling monkey will become a natural extension of your hands. For those who have never played a Monkey Ball game, the basic premise is that you are trying to get a monkey in a clear plastic (or glass) ball from one end of the maze to the other before the time expires while earning points along the way. But rather than controlling the actual ball you use the Wii-mote to tilt the world, thus moving the ball.
The levels start off simple enough then the mazes start to get exquisitely evil with plenty of shortcuts and various paths that require skill and dexterity, and even a bit of courage to attempt some of them. One new dynamic is the added ability to actually jump by flicking the Wii-mote or pressing the A button, and this proves to be a very necessary move in nearly all the stages.
The complex levels and addictive gameplay lend themselves to repetitive gameplay, even if itís just to shave a few seconds off your best time. And once you discover the perfect route or earn that impossible time, you can save your replay to the memory card and share the accomplishment with anybody who will watch.
Thankfully, you arenít required to beat all 100 levels before you can challenge your friends to any of the 50 highly entertaining mini-game challenges. Arguably, some of these arenít nearly as original as the aforementioned Rayman, but they all manage to offer various levels of fun and challenge. Most all of the games make creative use of the motion abilities of the Wii-mote and several require the nunchuk attachment.
Banana Blitz doesnít really standout in the graphics department, and it appears it could just as easily been released on the GameCube, minus the motion controls of course. Thatís not to say the graphics arenít colorful and very clean. Things definitely improved after I got my component cables and was able to kick things into progressive scan.
The characters are cute and charming and the animation is smooth, and considering you are moving entire worlds to roll your monkey along its path, the game manages an impressive 60fps. As long as you donít go into this game expecting some next-gen experience you should be more than satisfied with the charming presentation and cartoon vibe.
Expect plenty of quirky sound effects to go along with all the monkeyshines. Itís a very fun and cartoon-like experience and the sound effects match the visuals perfectly.
There is also a surprisingly good soundtrack, much improved over past Monkey Ball installments, and it ranges with the world themes and gameplay. It can be fun and fast or even a bit sinister at times.
It could take you the better part of a full month of gaming to roll your way through all 100 main levels and youíll likely want to come back and explore new routes and attempt some of those daring shortcuts, and better your previous scores.
Then you have the 50 mini-games that will offer you countless hours of fun for the whole family and your friends. Sure, some of the games are stupid (like the Jump Rope and Whack-a-mole), but there are some others that are pure genius and you can really tell the Monkey Ball team pulled out all the stops in thinking some of these quirky games up.
If you have to pick a party game and your choices are Rayman or Super Monkey Ball Iíd still tell you to get Rayman, but if you are an old-school Monkey Ball fan and loved the originals, or you want some solid single-player platform action then you will definitely want to check this game out, at least as a rental. Banana Blitz is not only a great way to show off the funky new controls of the Nintendo Wii, itís just a fun game for the entire family, and one you wonít be finishing anytime soon.