There’s a rather hilarious joke about a Wii, a monkey and a clear plastic ball, but given the E rating for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, it’ll remain unmentioned. What can be mentioned is how surprisingly solid the game is. Despite being more of what we’ve already seen, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz livens up a tired series with intuitive use of the Wii remote and a fun assortment of mini-games. Even with its relatively few single-player stages, the game is one of the best multiplayer experiences available for the launch of Nintendo Wii and a great showcase for its groundbreaking controls.
Banana Blitz follows the series’ tried-and-true gameplay formula with a fresh slate of single-player stages and multiplayer mini-games. In the single-player game, your goal is to guide a monkey encased in a transparent ball through an obstacle-ridden course toward an exit. Collecting bananas along the way earns you extra lives and opens up each world’s bonus stage. Eight worlds, each with eight stages, are offered in total, not including boss battles that conclude each world. The boss stages are new to the series, but you defeat them using the same tilt mechanics used in normal stages.
Although Banana Blitz is structured like previous iterations of the series, the game makes good use of the Wii remote for intuitive controls. In the single-player game, only the remote is used to guide your monkey ball to the goal. Tilting the remote moves the field of play in the corresponding direction; for example, twisting the remote to the left causes the stage to tilt left. Pressing the A button is the easiest way to jump, although you can flick the remote up while holding the B button to jump. Some of the later stages of the single-player game are awfully difficult due to a lack of precision, but with practice its sensitivity can be overcome. The controls make it easy to just pick up and play, perfectly complementing the series’ style of play; in fact, Banana Blitz is one of the few launch titles that incorporates use of the Wii remote without it feeling overtly tacked on.
Without question, Banana Blitz offers some of the best multiplayer action available at Wii launch, with its huge assortment of mini-games. With 50 to choose from, there’s hardly a lack of variety. Each mini-game utilizes the Wii remote in a unique way, with several that require attaching the nunchuk as well. A few stand out as particularly fun, such as the difficult-to-master “Trombone” that has you moving the remote to mimic a trombone slide in order to play music. One of the most engaging of the bunch is “Monkey Wars,” which is basically a first-person-shooter multiplayer deathmatch. Up to four players can compete in three different arenas as a monkey ball, collect three types of weapons, and blast each other for points. Finding one or two favorites should be easy considering how many cool little games have been packaged here. Given the relatively short length of the single-player mode, having an assortment of good mini-games to toy around with is nice.
In total, about half of the mini-games are worthwhile; the other half can be forgotten. Several are flat out lame, like “Scoop the Goldfish,” which has you catching goldfish with a flimsy net, and the laughable “Rock-Paper-Scissors Attack.” A few are unplayable due to control problems, as is the case with “Yacht Sailing.” Waving the remote up and down moves your yacht forward, but turning the remote left or right to change directions doesn’t work, as the game is unresponsive. Out of the bunch, only a handful is unplayable, and about a dozen are just plain boring.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz doesn’t reinvent the series, nor does it provide any remarkable innovations, yet it still manages to be a good game. The intuitive application of the Wii remote does much to engage you in the short-lived single-player mode. Even if some of the mini-games are awash, you will find a few to enjoy. Even accounting for these shortcomings, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is a solid launch title that deserves a roll.
- Overall: 8
- The new boss battles, massive number of mini-games and intuitive controls make this one a winner — in spite of its short single-player experience and half of the mini-games sucking in the first place.
— Tracy Erickson