Friday, August 31, 2007

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

System: Wii
Type: Puzzle/Adventure
Graphics: 7.5/10
Sound: 7.5/10
Story: N/A
Multiplayer: 8/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Super Monkey Ball was the surprise success for the GC which involved a fun single player a 3 simple multiplayer games that had equal appeal to both veterans and novices alike. This premise makes it an excellent title for the Wii, but how does it hold up?

The single player is a shinning point for this game. The games main campaign feels as if originally intended for the Wiimote. For those who are unaware of the series, the single player involves steering a monkey in a ball (!) along a perilous path by tilting the ground which the ball resides. The game adds a jump button and this fits seamlessly in to the game, allowing for much more imaginative puzzles restricted by nothing. The puzzles are well developed and the difficulty increases steadily throughout the game. It takes about 1 minute to get used to the controls and I have never had any Wiimote malfunctions which would have no doubt ruin the delicate control scheme. The length of the game is, although not breathtaking, will probably keep you going for quite a long time. The game features 7 worlds, each featuring 8 maps. At the the end of each world, you must fight a boss. These, although feel less polished than the rest of the game, are simple and fun. The bosses are amusing in designed and work well. They serve as a very nice ending to the world and offer an extra challenge to the best as collecting the bananas on the boss levels is particularly challenging. There appears to be some bug that inhibits the replaying of certain levels, but this is more of an annoyance than anything else.

The multiplayer is less consistent. The game boasts 50 multiplayer modes This figure is somewhat misleading as there are only 11 you would ever come back to. On the other hand, one must remember that having 11 MP games is very good. Still, it is a shame they wasted time and resources making 'Simon Says' instead of an extra map for 'Monkey Wars' . Highlights in the multiplayer include the aforementioned Monkey Wars, where you shoot other monkeys, the classic monkey race and series favourite that has you parachuting on to a target. Monkey Wars is a fantastic example that even in the individual multiplayer games, the Wiimote has been used well. Aiming is naturally done by pointing at the screen, however, what really makes you feel inside the game is to chuck a grenade you hold c and flick the 'Mote. As simple and insignificant this may seem, it works supremely well. Another good point about the MP is that the classic SSMB games have been adapted almost perfectly to suit the Wiimote. You barely notice that instead of a joystick you are tilting your hand. The maps however, is a problem, the MP lacks any serious re playability, particularly in the map department. For example, 'Monkey Race' has only 5 tracks, and that is one of the most. Creating maps is, compared to creating full blown games, probably quite easy. Why they didn't bundle some extra maps is beyond me. Monkey Wars, as great as it is, loses a lot of value when you realise it only has 3 quite small maps. Simon says in one of the 39 weak titles in the MP line up. The rest range from poor to absolutly rubbish. Some of the games are rubbish because of poor execution, as is the case in Monkey Bowling where you have no determinable effect on the outcome of the game, others are just stupid ideas, like Simon Says. Overall, you have to just ignore the rubbish titles and just pretend there are only good ones.

The game has a very nice graphical feel. The game will not win any awards for it, but with its bright block colours, it comes across as a fun happy game. There are no points where the graphics are ugly. Some of the multiplayer games, particularly 'Monkey Asteroids' look very nice. Compared with the first two titles, the step up is not always noticeable, but the maps feel much bigger as opposed to the enclosed feel of SMB1+2.

The sound in the game is as mixed as the multiplayer. In some cases it fits the world (a group of levels in a particular theme) perfectly. Where as other times you will end up muting it, it is that bad. The noises the monkeys make and the American commentary adds nothing to the game. The game does not feature huge amounts of SFXs, the ones it does feature do not impact on the game a lot, but certainly do not subtract from it. The sound is something that could definitely be improved upon, but does not cripple the game.

In conclusion Super Monkey Ball is a strong entry for the Wii. The single player is well worth the investment if you have enjoyed other SMB titles. If you have not tried the single player in previous titles, I recommend renting this title first, as the fiddly nature of it means that if it isn't your sort of game, you will just find it frustrating. The MP should keep you and your friends amused for a couple of hours. The presentation is good, not outstanding, but solid as one comes to expect from SMB. The game is by no means perfect and any sequels will surly improve upon the hit and miss style in the MP element. I do however, despite my slight qualms, recommend this game to all Wii owners.

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