Wii

North America

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

by Mike Gamin - November 26, 2006, 7:00 pm PST
Total comments: 14

5.5

It's nice to know that Wii can still play the original Super Monkey Ball.

Sega seems intent on moving its Monkey Ball franchise farther and farther away from what it was when it became a surprise hit at the GameCube launch. For better or worse, Banana Blitz is also significantly different from its predecessors. It's an entertaining platform game with a poor version of Mario Party thrown in.

The single player game consists of a series of worlds, each containing several stages and a boss battle. The stages are quite entertaining and they flow together well. The goal of each is the same as past games; get the monkey to the finish within the time limit. Bananas can be picked up for bonus points and extra lives. One new mechanic that differentiates this game from the earlier games is the addition of a jump ability. Now that the monkeys can jump all over the place, the game feels a lot more like a classic platformer. Precision takes a back seat to fast paced hopping and rolling. This won't be a welcome change for fans of the original, but it is still a lot of fun.

The game controls in one hand using the A button (to jump) and the tilt sensors of the remote. As the remote is tilted, the stage moves in a similar fashion. This allows for extremely fluid control that becomes natural very quickly. At first it can be frustrating, as there is no sensitivity option in the configuration for the game. It turns out that the different monkeys take care of sensitivity. The weight of the character translates directly to the sensitivity of the remote. When playing as Baby, the slightest motions send him rolling at an extreme pace. If GonGon is chosen, the remote will have to be tipped almost perpendicular to its starting position in order to get him to roll at any considerable speed. Once the perfect monkey is discovered, the Wii remote will feel perfect.

The boss battles take the platform feel even further. The vast majority of the bosses center around hopping and hitting a weak point. These fights often break up the enjoyment of the actual levels. They can be overly frustrating and significantly different enough that they take away from the fun. Very few battles actually involve rolling through obstacles, but those work the best. The idea of boss battles isn't a bad one, but the actual level design could use some improvement.

All of the good in this game is done once you move away from the single player experience. The multiplayer mode takes about 300 steps backward over every previous multiplayer Monkey Ball game. While the game boasts 50 mini-games to choose from, those games range from shallow to broken. There is just no good reason to come back to the title. The most successful mini-games of past Monkey Ball games are either overshadowed by the games in Wii Sports, or cheapened to the point of no return.

Probably the biggest culprit is everyone's favorite game, Monkey Target. Many previous players have probably spent more time on this mini-game than they have on the main game. So how has it changed in Banana Blitz? That awesome ski jump start? Gone. Now you just get fired out of a cannon. You can't create any variations in the beginning. Did they add a bunch of new target layouts and levels? Not at all. Now there is only one level that is repeated over and over again and it is far from interesting.

Other mini-games don't even function correctly. They are so bad that they may make you want to throw your Wii remote in the trash and pick up a normal controller again. Other Wii games have proven that this is not the fault of the hardware, but when a simple gesture is described on the screen before the game starts, and that same gesture never produces the desired result, it's hard to know who to blame. One very specific example of this is MonkeySmith. The premise is simple: there are three different directions you can swing your hammer, and you have to do what the screen tells you. Good luck getting any results. Your monkey will be swinging to the left when you are trying to swing to the right. Your monkey won't swing at all when you are trying to swing to the left. There are few games in history more frustrating than this.

There are also some mini-games that make you wonder if they even tested the concept. There are two games (Banana Catch and Paper Sumo) that use a combination of the pointer and depth sensitivity to place a crosshair on the screen. This is somewhat hard to explain, but you are placing your pointer on a spot that is in three dimensions. They tried to accomplish this by using left-to-right pointing for left-to-right placing, and the depth of the remote (relative to the screen) for the depth placing. Sounds good in theory, but when looking at the almost isometric view it makes more sense to move the pointer up and down for depth. It took dozens of tries to even complete either of these games and even then it was overly frustrating. Why on Earth wouldn't they just use the pointer for both directions like everyone would expect them to?

The strange pointer decisions don't end there, either. In some games the pointer is used for a function that doesn't actually involve having a cross hair (or the like) on the screen. In both golf games (disc and normal) you use the pointer to select your aim based on a pivoting arrow in the center of the screen. With no specific point of reference, it's hard to tell what you are supposed to do in order to move the pivoting arrow. The result is an extremely frustrating experience that is borderline unplayable.

Not all of the games are this bad, but the best of the bunch would be right at home in a Mario Party title, which is a far cry from the multiplayer games of the earlier titles. Having broken and bad games in the mix ruins the entire experience anyway. Players shouldn't have to flag which games they shouldn't pick just because they don't work.

If your favorite part about Monkey Ball is the single player experience, you will probably still have a lot of fun with this title and you shouldn't let this review scare you. If you were looking forward to the multiplayer mode, you should probably keep looking somewhere else. Had this game been packaged with the system instead of Wii sports, there would be many confused owners. At least developers will know how not to use the Wii remote's features in the future.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
5 6 5 5 3 5.5
Graphics
5

It looks the same as the series ever has. It's a good thing that the visuals don't really matter.

Sound
6

The music and effects don't really stand out as being good or bad. They are very consistent with the earlier games in the series.

Control
5

The single player experience would get a 9. It is very intuitive and fun. The glaring problems found in the multiplayer games pull the controls way down, though.

Gameplay
5

Again, the single player game is a lot of fun, but the multiplayer game is just so painful it pulls the score down.

Lastability
3

The multiplayer modes kept gamers coming back for more in the earlier games in the series. It won't take long for players of this version to realize there are better options out there. There are some high score runs you can do in the single player mode, but that's about it.

Final
5.5

Applying a number to this game is not an easy task. Many people are interested in the title based solely on the multiplayer experience. Others just want some single player fun. The single player experience is good on its own and would be worthy of a 7.5 score. There are so many problems with the multiplayer mode that it deserves no higher than a 3.5. By taking a clean average of the two, a 5.5 is the result.

Summary

Pros
  • The controls in the single player game are extremely intuitive and fun
  • Though different, the platforming feel makes for an entertaining experience
Cons
  • Previous hits like Monkey Target are worse than the original versions
  • Several multiplayer games feel broken and should not have been included at all
  • Some mini-games will make you think your Wii remote is broken
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterNovember 26, 2006

Well, at least we can ALL agree that Banana Blitz isn't as good as the first games...

Or am I wrong? I'm sure there must be some members that have enjoyed the game fully.

Bill AurionNovember 26, 2006

I don't know if I can agree with the fact that the score was pulled down because of the multiplayer, as bad as it is...The single player mode is still pure Monkey Ball...

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorNovember 26, 2006

I really struggled with how to handle that Bill. In many games, the multiplayer is a tacked on bonus over the single player experience, but with Monkey Ball it has always been so much more. There have been/are tons of people who were interested in this game only because the multiplayer modes in the earlier game were so much fun. Sega themselves even advertised it based on it's mini game count, not the single player game.

As I said in the score summary, I really gave both modes a 50/50 weight, and hopefully those who were interested in the game for the single player mode will take the time and read the entire review, as the game is still probably worth it to them.

CalibanNovember 26, 2006

I haven't touched much of single-player, but I tried most of the mini-games and I was like "this is crap", although I did understand how to play MonkeySmith hahaha.

Bill AurionNovember 26, 2006

Monkey Smith's controls worked half of the time for me... face-icon-small-thumbsdown.gif Whack-a-Mole was completely unplayable...But there ARE some gems in there like the Space Invaders rip-off!

I agree with Pale on the significance of multiplayer for this series.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusNovember 26, 2006

While I do agree that the multiplayer feels a little watered down but I had and my cousins had a lot of fun with the multiplayer modes, while they weren't the best they are far far far away from abysmal. I would personally rank this game a 7.5. Sure some of the games seemed like rip offs you do have to admire that it really seemed like SEGA was trying to use the controller in a lot of different ways so that it wouldnt feel cheap in a way that SEGA could of made us do the same exact motions for every exact minigame so I give them props for trying to use as much as they can out of the Wii remote and sometimes the Nunchuk technology.

And to tell you the truth the minigames in Banana Blitz didn't give me as much as a headache as some of the minigames in the story mode of rayman raving rabbids did (especially the maze and tilt labyrinths that required to be completed in a specific ammount of time).

AussiedudeNovember 27, 2006

Is the single player turn based like in the original Super Monkey Ball so 4 players can play?

If it aint im cancelling my pre-order.

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorNovember 27, 2006

Aussie,

There is no turn based multiplayer in the single player mode. It's strange that they left it out, but it isn't there.

Smash_BrotherNovember 27, 2006

Monkey Darts is worth the $50 alone.

But yeah, a lot of the other minigames are concept games which didn't always pan out, like the trombone game. I expected this from a launch title, though. I knew there would be a lot of those 50 games which just didn't work out while others were pretty neat.

Cortez the KilerNovember 27, 2006

I have to say that I find the average reviews scoring 7.5-8.5 a lot closer to my experience than this review. The single player experience is a blast and I have had oodles more enjoyment playing through these levels than SMB2. The controls are a perfect match for the game and the levels become more difficult and not simply frustrating. The multiplayer experience is flawed by some horrible mini-games but once you have weeded out the junk there are a significant amount of gems. I have yet to play a lot of the nunchuck required mini-games, due to my lack of second nunchuck, but I have found some great party games with just the wiimote. Banana Thief, Dangerous Route, Sumo (I can see disliking this one but once you get a hang of the controls it provides some good laughs), and Ring Toss are all a lot of fun. The sport games are also quite a good time even if they are not up to par with WiiSports. My biggest complaint is not with the mini-games as with whoever wrote the instructions to them. There are mini-games which I assumed to be broken only to realize that the instructions were totally misleading. Some of the mini-games like whack-a-mole and the aforementioned hammer games are utter crap but thankfully there are enough fun mini-games to totally make up for it.

AussiedudeNovember 27, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Pale
Aussie,

There is no turn based multiplayer in the single player mode. It's strange that they left it out, but it isn't there.


Well I must say my anticipation for the Wii is now close to zero. I should have waited for the PS3 or got the X360.

Red Steel CRAP, MONKEY BALL CRAP, the two games I was most looking forward too. PLUS now you have to @#$%ing play < 8 ft from the TV what @#$%ing crap.
Worse launch ever (Im not a Zelda fan).




WanderingNovember 27, 2006

I had a pretty low opinion of SM triple B, until I tried the single player, which is a monkey ball fan's dream. Though it does kill my wrist.

Dark_SlothNovember 27, 2006

Definately. I was pretty excited for monkey ball... It was my multiplayer game for the wii launch. I was pretty alarmed how some of them played. I was pretty bummed. Then i played the single player a few days later... Loved it. So i think the review was a really well done. Any fan of monkey ball would hopefully look at the score and read why its so low.

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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Box Art

Genre Party/Parlor
Developer Sega
Players1 - 4
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
Release Nov 14, 2006
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone
eu: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
Release Dec 08, 2006
PublisherSega
Rating3+
aus: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
Release Nov 19, 2006
PublisherTHQ
RatingGeneral
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