Let's first clarify that we're big Super Monkey Ball fans. Ever since playing the original on the GameCube we've been totally convinced of the varied and addictive gameplay the series had to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed the minigames such as Monkey Target and thought that the game provided the perfect balance between both solid gameplay and party type “quick blast” fun. Imagine our excitement when we learned Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was one of the first releases on the Nintendo Wii!
The Wii controls should be perfect for a game like Super Monkey Ball: you tilt the Remote down to roll forwards and twist it side-to-side to turn corners. It should be the most intuitive thing in the world, but the thing is - it just doesn’t work.
In the original Gamecube game the analogue stick controlled the speed of the Monkey Ball: the more you pushed forward, the faster your ball would accelerate. This is something which just doesn’t happen in Banana Blitz, because even if you were to point your Remote directly at the ground, your ball still won't roll any faster - and that's ignoring the fact that pointing the Remote at the ground means putting your arm into a horrible position.
Turning doesn’t feel entirely comfortable either as twisting can lay some unnecessary pressures upon your wrist. We played Banana Blitz for about an hour and came out of it with a serious case of arm ache. The whole control of Banana Blitz feels a bit like Twister for the arm as you’re constantly putting it into unnatural positions. It's a shame the controller couldn't be held sideways (like a NES controller) and tilted about that way, as this would feel a lot more natural and take away any risk of RSI.
It’s such a shame that the game doesn’t control as well as it should because what is on offer here is a really good Super Monkey Ball game, with varied levels and environments balancing skill and frustration perfectly. There are 80 levels on offer in total and each environment is nicely designed with colourful and richly-rendered graphics.
The big change in the gameplay to Banana Blitz (aside from the horrible controls) is the ability to make your monkey jump. By tapping the button your monkey will provide a small leap, unlocking a whole new plethora of gameplay methods in terms of discovering shortcuts and reaching bunches of bananas.
Not just that, but Banana Blitz also provides you with 50 mini-games all of which are based on different methods of using the Wii Remote. Now needless to say at least 45 of these mini-games are pretty poor: just as Sega were unable to get to grips with the controls for the main game of Banana Blitz, most of the mini-games simply don’t work.
It’s not that the mini-games are bad in themselves; it’s just that Sega didn’t think about the controls enough. Sure they want to show off what the Wii Remote can do, and it's great that a developer aside from Nintendo wants to make use of the Remote in interesting ways, but they should make sure that the controls actually work first. For example, a simple ring toss game which has you throwing a ring onto stumps is made virtually impossible due to the complexity of the movements required.
Classic minigames such as Monkey Target also just simply don’t feel right and the only minigames that excel are ones such as Asteroid Crush, which requires you using the Wii Remote as a cross hair and shooting oncoming asteroids.
The presentation in Banana Blitz is perfect, with annoyingly catchy guitar riffs fuelling the action and bright colours creating an immersive world. Unfortunately everything about the controls sucks and at times makes this game utterly unplayable. If the controls were good then you could double the score we've given it.