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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (Wii)

Rated: 7+

Concept: Roll and jump a ball containing a monkey through obstacle courses by tilting the wiimote and thus tilting the onscreen landscape itself.

Gameplay: It's basically that simple. You have to race to the goal before time runs out without falling off. You can collect bananas to gain extra lives. There is a choice of monkeys with differing attributes such as size, speed and agility, allowing multiple routes through many of the levels.

There are also fifty monkey-themed minigames to play. These involve everything from golf to shooting asteroids.

Save System: Auto-save after every level.

Comments: I've hit upon a quick way for you to gauge Wii games. How they make you enter your name tells a very great deal. The simplest, quickest and most accurate way is for the entire alphabet to be displayed on screen and for you to point and click with the wiimote. Any game that's any good will use this method. A game that displays the entire alphabet on screen but then forces you to move a cursor from one letter to the next using the d-pad is obviously a lazy port from another system. A game which employs some funky motion-sensing method of text entry, however, just hates you.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz makes you scroll left and right through the alphabet by twisting your wrist. I found entering 'ED' awkward and tiresome. I had to do it each time I got a high score on each of the minigames. This drove me mad. Sega's method of compensating for this seems to have been to make at least ninety percent of the minigames so dreadful that I only wanted to play them once anyway. Some have controls so floaty that attempting to use the Force seems like a worthwhile alternative. Others are dull. The rest are as basic as a Flash game. Even the way the instructions are conveyed is so confusing that merely to describe it would be a lesson in confusion. The few games which do work aren't fleshed out enough. Monkey Target, where you have to collect bananas by paragliding and then land on a target for points, is excellent but there's only one course. Monkey Wars, a first-person shooter, miraculously has the best FPS controls on Wii but only three death-match arenas. You have to wonder why they bothered.

Luckily the main game still works. I would have liked to have been able to turn the wiimote sideways in order to hold it with both hands, though. The new ability to jump makes things more interesting but it still all boils down to rolling a monkey in a ball through a maze. (Now with added boss battles!) You'd be as well picking up the original GameCube game second-hand for a fiver. The control system in that is less immediate but more accurate. The minigames are actually decent. If it turns out you really like the concept you can always buy this later.

Conclusion: More of the same but with motion-sensing. In previous Monkey Ball games, however, the minigames were a highlight. In this they actually lower the score.

Graphics: Pretty in the main game. Frequently ugly in the minigames.

Length: Short.

Rating: 2/5

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