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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
Puzzle. Ish.
Out now!

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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - Review
Written by Phil Thompson

The Monkey Ball franchise has always scored high marks with the press. Monkeys in plastic balls seems to captivate the gaming audience. Why then, have Sega tried to fix something which isn’t broken?

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This man has an unfortunate face.
The control scheme of Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz relies primarily on the accelerometers within the Wii Remote - the player tilts the controller to manipulate the puzzle dish, an action previously carried out with the analog stick and in Touch and Roll, the touch screen. The A button on the Remote functions as the jump button. Our first instinct was to flick the remote upwards. Either way, the controls in Banana Blitz work fantastically, and are easy to use, which should put some minds to rest.

The main game features sixty-four puzzle dishes, eight bonus stages, and eight boss stages. The aim of the game is to manipulate the puzzle dish in such a way that leads your monkey (encased in a large plastic ball for no apparent reason whatsoever) to the goal. Obstacles of varying shape and size are scattered accross each dish, in an attempt to throw you off. You lose if your monkey rolls off the edge. Sounds simple enough, however as many soon discover, it’s far more difficult than is first apparent.

Puzzle dishes are distributed accross eight differently themed “worlds”, each one more perplexing and intricate than the last. We’re not all too comfortable with the departure from the arcade-esque layout of yore, mainly because it makes progressing far too easy and gradual, but we’re slowly becoming accustomed to it. Such a departure means that hardcore Monkey Ball fanatics will find it far less appealing than those who are just discovering the franchise, making the new engine quite dangerous on Sega’s part.

However, said hardcore fans will be pleased to know that the puzzle dishes, while lacking in number when compared to previous installments, are far more gargantuan and labyrinthine than they’ve been before. Many dishes take more than a minute to complete, and are packed to the absolute brim with new challenges, many which take advantage of the jump function. However, the inclusion of puzzles which rely heavilly upon jumping around ultimately detract from the game itself, turning it into more of a platformer than anything else. And we know what happens when you do that - just look at the god-awful Monkey Ball Adventure.

The boss stages are slightly irritating at times. They just serve to make the game seem like even more of a platformer. Needless to say, we’re not all too comfortable with the whole idea. That presents a big issue for us - Banana Blitz feels like a platformer. They’ve even got damned enemies on some stages. While there are certain elements there to remind you that you’re still playing Monkey Ball (the timer, the goal, the irritating Australian guy’s consistent shouting), it still feels incredibly uncomfortable for seasoned gamers expecting another hardcore arcade experience. Also, the main game is single player only. Why Sega, why? The main game was always fantastic in multiplayer. We see no reason to take it away.

As you may well know, Banana Blitz has a rather large stash of minigames. Fifty of them, in fact. After playing through some of them, we can safely say that we hate them. We hate them, and we condemn their hairy arses to hell. It’s not like we weren’t expecting half of them to be crap, although we certainly didn’t think they’d be this poor. Yes, we know all about Wii’s “new direction”, but we’re getting mighty sick of minigames. Rayman, Call of Duty, Warioware, Wii Play, and now Monkey Ball. The beggars are everywhere. We’d be comfortable if there were ten or twelve, and they were all at least playable, but this doesn’t seem to be the case at all, and it’s all rather unfortunate. Of fifty, about ten are even worth playing, with even less proving enjoyable. Luckily, they don’t detract from the overall experience - they’re just superfluous and crap. You know there’s no point in living anymore when Monkey Target isn’t fun, so we’ll leave it at that.

Sega have been very lucky to get away with this game. They can keep their minigames; all we want are more dishes. The controls don’t even need any tuning - unlike most other Wii launch titles, they’re absolutely fine. Sega, listen up. We want a sequel. A sequel devoid of any crappy minigames. We want loads and loads of hard-as-nails dishes, and please, for the love of God, don’t touch the controls. We love them.

Puzzle dish is Phil's bizarre name for the stages on Monkey Ball. Not to be confused with 'Puzzle Ish', the genre we've assigned to this game. - James

The verdict:

Some of the sneakiest and most evil puzzle dishes ever, and we love it. Ignore the mini-games.


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