|Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (2006)
Available for: Nintendo Wii
There’s not much one can say about the “Super Monkey Ball” series that hasn’t already been said. For some, it’s an incredibly addictive romp that’s easy to pick up and play, while others simply refuse to forgive the title’s cutesy simian antics and complete lack of depth. This reviewer has long been a pledging member of the latter camp, and while the new installment of the franchise, “Banana Blitz,” looks to enhance the experience with a new multiplayer mode featuring fifty different mini-games, this Wii-exclusive is plagued with far too many problems to recommend it over the far superior mini-game extravaganza, “Rayman Raving Rabids.”
As the bread and butter of the title, the story mode hasn’t changed a single bit. You still control a cartoony simian trapped inside a translucent hamster ball with one goal in mind: make it from one end of the course to the other by rolling yourself through a series of obstacles in a set amount of time. This latest installment throws out the classic analog stick controls in favor of the Wiimote’s unique gyroscopic feature, so tilting the controller forward and back produces the expected result onscreen. As you progress through each of the eight “Marble Madness”-like worlds (made up of eight stages and new-to-the-series boss fights), the difficulty level gets so ridiculous you can hardly imagine a little kid (for whom this game was purportedly made) able to complete a good majority of them. The motion detection is also so damn sensitive when compared to other Wii games that it’s very difficult to figure out just how to control your monkey ball. And while it is technically possible to change the sensitivity options on your controller, you shouldn’t have to do so just for one game.
The other portion of “Banana Blitz” is made up entirely of mini-games, and while I’m usually a sucker for these fast-paced gaming bouts (like “Mario Party” and “Wario Ware”), this collection is a mixed bag. In most cases, either the Wiimote just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, the instructions are more confusing than the games themselves, or they’re just plain not fun. Also, many of the mini-games are sports-related, and what’s the point of playing those when every Wii owner already has the packed-in “Wii Sports"? There are a few fun games in the bunch, including obscure sports like squash, darts, fencing and frisbee golf, as well as others like Slingshot, Rock-Paper-Scissors Attack and Red Light, Green Light.
Seven out of fifty, however, isn’t exactly what you’d call a promising percentage for a title that’s desperately trying to shake things up with the addition of mini-games. This feels like an overplayed tactic by game companies developing for the Wii, and when it comes down to it, “Banana Blitz” is the absolute worst example of how the new controller is bound to trip up its own progress. The controls are just too darn buggy, and even if you do have the time to sit down and perfect the ultimate steady hand, there’s no point in wasting it on Sega’s latest misfire. There are better games out there that fully realize the Wii’s true potential – like, say, “Twilight Princess.”