It's truly remarkable that anyone thought these games would be a fun way to show off the Wii remote, as at least half the party games on this collection would baffle hardcore gamers into submission, never mind casual gamers looking for some pick up and play fun. In multiplayer, any issues you may have with the controls extend to having to deal with exasperated friends as they too have to try and suss out the new and interesting ways they are being punished. If anything, it makes you long for the simple pleasures of a joypad, and will add weight to the argument that we're very much in novelty territory with the early Wii games - and dangerous territory at that if these are people's first impressions of what the Wii's about.
Given the genuinely appalling state of the party games, it's just as well that the single-player mode holds up as well as expected. Structured over eight worlds of six levels each (plus a bonus level after the fourth stage and a boss fight at the end), you get the usual devious array of twisty ramps and ledges to negotiate within a time limit, with the option of picking up bananas along the way - no change there, then.
The ability to control the tilt of the landscape with the Wii remote is perhaps the most fundamental alteration to the gameplay, and one that is - at least in theory - something of a perfect fit for a game that relies solely on subtle, ultra responsive movements. Adapted exactly as you'd expect, every slight movement applied to the Wii remote causes the landscape to respond accordingly. So, it goes without saying that small downward motion with the remote causes the world to tilt with precision in that direction, making the gameplay feel enormously intuitive and satisfying. No longer are you restricted by the limitations and variations in control pads - only the steadiness of your own hand.
For the high jump
But rather than just design a SMB game around that solid principle, the ability to jump has also been added (either by simply pressing A or swinging the remote up at the same time as pressing B), which has a fairly dramatic impact on the level design. With more obvious static and moving obstacles to hurdle and ramps to get the required speed up on, the game's now as much about timing your jumps as it is about charting a precise path to the goal. The levels now appear to be a little longer than in previous games, and while this makes it a wee bit more challenging in itself, the early worlds are nowhere near as demanding as previous SMBs. If you settle into the control system early on, you can expect to clear most of the early portion of the game in your first or second attempt.
Bonus levels work exactly as they did in the past, while the new boss encounters require studious use of the jump mechanic to target their weak spots with precision. It's all fairly standard stuff, with a health bar to whittle down and predictable attack patterns not making it too tough to figure out. As much as boss encounters aren't really required in a game like this, we didn't mind their presence.
What does feel a bit of an oversight, though, is the inability to wrestle camera control back from the game at crucial times. As with all SMB games, Banana Blitz makes odd camera shifts at the most inappropriate times, such as when you've been forced to hastily backtrack to avoid spilling into the abyss. With the viewpoint often looking entirely the opposite way that you need it to, you have to make tiny tweaks to your movement to encourage it to rotate around the right way again - something that could have so easily been assigned to the nunchuk's analog stick. While we realise that at least some of the purpose of the automatic camera is to convey the tilting of the level, it would benefit the playability like most third person games.
Last gen first gen
Technically speaking, Banana Blitz could easily pass as a standard GameCube title. That's not to say it's by any means a bad looking game but the simple level designs and cutesy graphics have never been the most system intensive in any case, and so it's hardly a shock to come away from this with the same feeling as five years ago. Even so, it's a style that we've long held dear to our hearts, and as a result it looks great, with character bursting out of every screen. The silly noises, dumb little ditties and the arrival of two new characters (Doctor and Yan Yan) only makes it more appealing in that respect.
Overall, though, the use of the Wii remote feels like a logical and well-implemented decision that gives the single-player portion of Super Monkey Ball the degree of novelty it badly needed at this stage. Adding jumping and boss monsters, though, is questionable, and it's arguable that Sega should have included the old 'classic' levels in there to appease the old school fans who might fancy seeing how they fared with the new control system. The multiplayer party games, though, are a total waste of effort, and justify the docking of at least two points off the final score. With only a couple of exceptions, the games either under-utilise the Wii remote and feel pointless, or overcomplicate inherently simple actions to the point of being maddeningly unplayable. As much as novelty value can be a good thing during the launch of a new console, the unavoidable conclusion is that Super Monkey Ball is more fun on a joypad on the GameCube than in this flawed experiment. If you're a die-hard single-player fan, by all means give it a try, but for the party game fan, avoid this at all costs.
6 / 10