Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Troy, MI
Best Super Monkey Ball yet?
ok i have to admit, i wasnt expecting much from this title. after hearing bad E3 reports about the controller being to touchy, and the blunder that was SMBA, i was going to wait till this game got bargian binned.
DANG Wii AND ITS MUST HAVE TITLES!!! looks like my wallet is going to be even more raped at launch.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
You've seen the mini-games. Now we take you through the amazing single-player experience. Hands-on impressions and simply spectacular direct-feed movies.
by Matt Casamassina
October 11, 2006 - First, there was Super Monkey Ball. The quirky GameCube action-puzzler inexplicably featured monkeys trapped inside balls and challenged gamers to roll them through twisting, turning stages in order to reach a goal. Along the way, it was possible to collect bananas, although this was by no means a necessity. The experience was altogether simple, but hidden beneath the easy facade were a series of level shortcuts that separated the novices from the pros. The hardcore gamer loved Monkey Ball for these satisfying shortcuts -- jumping off a ledge and bouncing down a pathway to the goal three tiers beneath, for example -- and his girlfriend loved the title because it was intuitively controlled. Both, meanwhile, loved it because it revolved around monkeys trapped inside balls. Super Monkey Ball 2 carried forward the basics from the first game, retaining the same fundamental control and increasingly difficult level designs, but it added a series of fun multiplayer-enhanced mini-games, too. Who could resist flying monkeys over the water in Monkey Target? Certainly not us or our imaginary girlfriends. For many, Super Monkey Ball 2 remains the better of the two experiences -- not only because of the added mini-games, but because the single-player puzzle stages were so much more challenging, too.
But Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz for Wii could become the new franchise king. We had the chance to spend a couple hours with the game recently and we dedicated ourselves to the single-player experience, determined to satisfy our thirst for some challenging, tricky and occasionally awe-inspiring puzzle arenas. By the time we were done playing, our seemingly insatiable thirst was quenched. Banana Blitz is playing and looking so good that we've completely forgotten about that little adventure game with the monkeys in it -- what was it called again? Oh, it doesn't even matter. What matters is that players who loved the original Super Monkey Ball titles are going to do backflips over this Wii-enhanced sequel.
We're going to dive into the gameplay mechanics shortly, but first let's go over the numbers. Banana Blitz's single-player mode features approximately 99 levels of varying difficulty -- and really, some of these stages are outrageously hard to make it through, let alone master. Players will travel through an initial eight worlds, each with eight stages -- one of which is a boss battle. Monkey Island looks very reminiscent of a traditional tropical setting from previous games. Jumble Jungle features brush and waterfall backdrops. Smooth Sherbet is surrounded in falling snow particles and icy pathways. Detritus Desert takes gamers through Egyptian-style mazes complete with pyramids, sand dunes, and bridges. Pirates Ocean is filled with spooky ships and swaying waters. Cobalt Caverns unfolds beneath the sea in caves. Volcanic Pools -- well, the name says it all. And Space Case, the eighth world, boasts galactic backgrounds that are just as surreal as they are hypnotic.
By the time gamers make it to Space Case, they will be masters, but hardcore pros can go for gold and unlock two additional worlds. Only those who make it through all eight worlds without continuing can unlock the ninth area, which is practically impossible. And the insanely dedicated can attempt to make it through the ninth world without continuing to unlock the tenth and final area, which will prove nearly insurmountable even for those with cybernetically enhanced reflexes. In short, don't let those cute little monkeys fool you: Banana Blitz is poised to be every bit as challenging and controller-throwing-inducing as its predecessors.
And speaking of those chimps, they play a much bigger role in Banana Blitz than they have in previous outings. They are no longer there just for show or for style. Now, each monkey has his or her own attributes which can be used for different levels. For instance, Aiai is the most well-balanced of the bunch, offering a healthy degree of both speed and maneuverability. Baby is all about pure speed. Gongon is far away the slowest and heaviest of the bunch, but he's got power; in fact, he can roll and smash through some stoppers and other objects that would repel the other monkeys. Newcomer Doctor features the fastest acceleration and Yanyan can jump the highest -- we discovered that her skill in particular really proves invaluable when attempting to navigate some crazy shortcuts. The good news is that players can change to any monkey they want to use between stages.
The control setup couldn't be simpler. Unlike some of the mini-games, which require the use of both the Wii-mote and the nunchuk, the single-player game only utilizes the former. Gamers will roll through these stages using only one hand, freeing up the other for Funyuns. A common misconception about the Monkey Ball franchise is that players controls the monkeys, which is not true. Actually, the Wii-mote manipulates the game boards that the monkeys roll through, tilting them to and from. In previous titles, gamers used an analog stick to do this, but with Banana Blitz they merely gesture with the Wii-mote. Push forward and the monkeys gain in speed. Pull backward and they slow down. Twist the controller left or right like a key in door and the chimps veer left or right respectively. And those are the basics. Of course, monkeys also jump into the air when the A button is pressed, but as an alternative gamers can hold down the B-trigger and quickly snap the Wii-mote back for the same effect.
We've had some limited time with Banana Blitz since the game was first unveiled, but most of our play tests with the game have not unfolded in ideal conditions. Usually, we find ourselves standing two feet from a sub-par television and with five people waiting in line behind us. However, we recently had two solid hours with the game at SEGA -- not standing, but sitting on a couch and really taking everything in. We're happy to report that Banana Blitz is, indeed, all that gamers are hoping it might be and a bag of chips, too.
After five minutes of play time, we were honestly wondering if the game was more difficult because of the Wii controller. Some of the maneuvers that would have proven easy with an analog stick felt somehow more challenging when performed via gestures. But two hours later, we found ourselves flying through stages, attempting shortcut after shortcut without even thinking about how to use the Wii-mote, and roaring and cheering or laughing depending on whether or not our attempts were amazing successes or embarrassing failures. The title actually encourages pros to go for the shortcuts, as certain banana clumps can only be reached by daredevils who bounce off ledges and go for the quickest time to the goal. We've posted a wealth of new direct-feed movies and we think viewers will agree that there are some absolutely thrilling stages in the game -- and the control mechanics quickly transform from pretty good to damn near excellent as soon as Ballers learn to rewire the way they play.
All-new to Banana Blitz are boss battles, which take place at the end of each world. These unfold in a pretty straightforward manner, but they are actually kind of fun and a good break from the more traditional battles. In one boss battle, a gigantic hippo/ape/abominable snowman creature sits in the middle of an icy arena. The monster shows what appears to be an enormous inflamed pink bellybutton -- at least, we hope that's what it is -- and it's up to gamers to avoid his spinning attacks long enough to bounce into the phallic appendage. It's pretty easy, but the battles become increasingly difficult. For instance, later, another boss shoots missiles at the monkeys and players must jump on these projectiles to ricochet them backward.
As downloaders will see in the videos we've provided, Banana Blitz features a made over cell-shaded style that goes very well with the franchise, as far as we're concerned. The pastel look is very cheerful, much like the happy, high-pitched music the game booms out. Snow particles drift in the foreground, backdrops are blurred via depth of field, and the monkey balls themselves cast reflections and become surrounded by star particles when gamers bump into objects. The game has an impressively clean, crisp look to it due in large to the quality of the textures, which hold up even when evaluated closely. Best of all, Banana Blitz runs at 60 frames per second and supports both progressive-scan and 16:9 widescreen modes.
Banana Blitz features 50 mini-games, including such favorites as Monkey Target -- a mini that by itself is enough to make us want the title. However, this is a series that has largely been about the spectacular single-player puzzle stages and it is here that, without a doubt, Banana Blitz does not disappoint. At the end of our two hours with the game, we didn't want to stop, and we nearly ran out of tape because we kept recording ourselves going through levels again and again as we tried for the best shortcuts. Monkey Ball fans are going to eat this title up and keep coming back for the mini-games. We see absolutely no reason at this stage why Banana Blitz shouldn't be on everybody's must-buy list when Wii launches this November.