Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Wii

I have always been a huge fan of these so called cutesy puzzlers… the likes of the Super Monkey Ball franchise along with Katamari Damacy and its follow ups have being right at the top of my list of favoured titles over the past few years. As such, whenever a new title in the genre gets close to release I get as excited for the game as I do for the likes of a new Halo or Zelda game. So, this week I get a brand new console and a new addition to one of my favourite series’ so I should be overjoyed, right? Wrong! I am only half as happy as I could have been.

A Few Times I’ve Been Around That Track

Super Monkey Ball has been around for a long time now and with its move to Wii the main game has not changed much. You are still a monkey and you are still trapped in a ball (for whatever crazed reason). You still roll around the environment in that ball through a myriad of courses that get harder as you advance with all manner of slopes, barriers, pitfalls and more in the way between you and you goal. There are a few changes though; firstly you can now defy physics and jump into the air while inside your ball. The addition of this ability changes the game more than you would expect as many of the levels now have gradients which have to be jumped onto to advance. Another extra is that bosses have now been added to the game. These bosses tie in with your new ability to jump as each of them has a weak point which you need to leap on to hurt each boss. The addition of these bosses may not please Monkey Ball traditionalists (it there is such a thing) but they are fun enough to be an entertaining addition to the game rather than feeling like a tacked-on extra.

Of course the biggest change is that the game is now controlled via the Wiimote which maps all moves you make to on screen movements. Thankfully this works very well and the game showcases the quality the Wiimote with even the smallest moves translated on screen making the environment pitch and tilt. It should be noted that the new system doesn’t necessarily make the game any better but it does work well and is in no way a hindrance to how the game plays. As a result most people that play should be able to mess around with the first few levels without much aggravation while the latter levels can offer a stern challenge to long term fans. So if you are a fan of just the Story Mode of the Monkey Ball franchise then everything about Banana Blitz is hunky-dory…

So It’s Not Just Gonna Happen Like That

However if you are at all interested in the party mini-games that the series is now famous for then be warned as most of the new games on show are highly disappointing. To make things ever worse the older party games are now shambolic versions of their former selves. Most of the mini-games on show offer 1-4 player options but sadly they are so damn confusing you’d better hope the other three players with you are a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon and erm… maybe Professor Frink to help you learn how to play them. All in all, only about 5 of the 50 games on show offer any sort of replayability with the other 45 being either mind-numbingly boring to play or just painful attempts at shoehorning the Wii controls into substandard games. I used to love the party games in the SMB series so it really pains me to see how bastardize they have become in Blitz… it pains with the fire, and the impact, and the hundred percent chance of PAIN! PAIN IN THE GLA-HEY-VIN!

My favourite of the 50 games would undoubtedly be Space Monkey Attack which is a vertical shooter that plays like R-Type or Space Invaders… it is very basic, just like a basic internet flash game, but I could easily find myself coming back to play it game on and off over the next few months. The likes of Monkey Bowling, Target and Golf which most will remember from older games also border on being playable but don’t seem to have that ‘one more go’ feeling they once had. Monkey Race is the final game I would label with the word playable as it uses the Wiimote smartly and is fun in short bursts. It’s all downhill from there though as the other games are just terrible. Monkey Darts sounds good on paper but is almost impossible to control. The same goes Monkey Fencing, Monkey Squash and Home Run Derby. They all just feel like cheap Wii Sports rip off. The rest of the games are either too simple – Whack-A-Mole and Jigsaw Puzzle – or far too complex – Alien Attack and Hovercraft Battle – to care about. In the end you’d wish they included a 51st mini game called Monkey Slap so you could take your anger out for being put though such unbridled crap.

This Sh*t Is Bananas

Blitz sports a new graphical style which at first glance looks like cel-shading but under more scrutiny it’s noticeable there is a bit more going on. The monkeys now look flatter than usual… resembling an almost cartoon version of their former selves, while the environment is still 3D and looks like it has some depth. As you would expect the colour pallet of the game is once again very bright with loads of primary colours blaring out at you. Each of the eight worlds in the game are varied ranging from bright jungles with greens and yellows to snow levels with blues and whites. All in all the graphics are passable, but there are also a few nice touches here and there to brighten things up a bit. None of the music in the game seems to be brand new with most songs being just remixes of levels from older games… everything about the music seems to be very high tempo and I defy anyone to label the music boring… annoying however could be acceptable.

B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Banana Blitz is an okay game, but as you play through it there is always a feeling that the game could be so much better. Thankfully the core story mode more-or-less works great with the new control system… it would be hard to mess that up though as the Wiimote is basically built for the game. The game’s main problem lies with the mini/party games as they just seem too thrown together and in all honesty, very little of what’s on show resembles anything you could call fun. When all’s said and done the price of admissions seem far too high to justify picking up Banana Blitz right now. Only half the game is really worth playing so save yourself the bother and wait till the January sales when the price may drop considerably to match the quality of the overall product.

They’re my party games and I’ll cry if I want to!

6.7 out of 10