Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Preview
We find out what happens when you mix monkeys, balls, and Nintendo's Wii.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz is the latest installment in Sega's quirky and addictive puzzler starring brightly colored simians in translucent balls. The series began in the arcades and slowly found its way to consoles courtesy of appearances on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Though the game started out as a simple puzzler, the upcoming Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz for the Nintendo Wii expands on the classic monkey ball formula and finds the simian stars in an all-new adventure that adds new monkeys to the cast and sends them on a whirlwind banana-collecting adventure. We recently had the chance to try out the upcoming game to see what new shenanigans Aiai and company are getting into on the Wii.
The work-in-progress version we played let us try out the game's new themed worlds that now encompass tropical islands, Egyptian deserts, icy tundras, pirate ships, volcanic pools, and outer space. All told, the game will feature over eight worlds that will each have eight puzzle levels for you to work through. Once you've gotten through them, you'll find yourself in a boss battle against assorted animals that have it out for you. During the battles, the boss is hell-bent on knocking you out of the battle area, which causes you to get a "fall out." Your goal is to find and exploit the weak spot on each boss's body. Based on the fight we had with a large hat-wearing bird named Featherduster, we don't expect the weak spots to be too hard to find. The large bird was sporting a hat with a convenient red button on top that begged to be bopped using the game's new jump mechanic.
Control in the game hovers somewhere between a very intuitive use of the Wii controller and a mechanic you'll have to practice a bit. As with the previous titles in the series, you're manipulating the environment and not your monkey, so you'll have to twist and tilt the Wii-mote accordingly. The system works well, though we'll confess we had some trouble with the finer points of control that are needed during the more challenging puzzles we encountered.
Banana Blitz's graphics were in tune with the different themed environments and remained true to the game's hypercute style. The monkeys, both old and new, look sharp as they roll in their balls. The bosses we've seen are equally fetching and fit in with the zany cast. For those splitting hairs, the game doesn't look like a tremendous visual leap over the GameCube games, but there seems to be more going on in the levels, and the addition of different elevations on the map, which require careful jumping, are good additions to the mix.
The audio in the game doesn't offer much in the way of surprises and sticks with the tried-and-true SMB formula. You'll hear bouncy tunes that stick with the various area themes. The monkeys have their standard repertoire of cries and effects for their movements. The bosses have their own unique sets of audio clips, as well.
Based on what we played so far, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz is sticking to the essentials of its appeal. The core mechanics are still accessible, and the action is addictive. The addition of the jump is a new wrinkle that fits comfortably with the simple controls. The Wii controller offers a new challenge that we want to spend more time getting comfortable with. As it stands right now, there's a lot of potential here, and we look forward to logging more time with the game to see if it's fulfilled. Look for more on Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz in the coming weeks. For more on the game, check out our QA with producer Toshiro Nagoshi.
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