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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

Review: Monkey Ball for the motion generation

Being a game all about tilting platforms, Super Monkey Ball was the one game that made instant sense to us when we first saw the tilt-sensing Wii Remote.

We dreamed it, Sega made it; you tilt the Wii Remote and the platform does the same. No Nunchuk is needed - you just hold the Remote in one hand with the face of the Remote facing upwards and your twisting motions are accurately and instantly converted to platform tilting.

Before we go into detail about the control, here's a quick overview of the Banana Blitz package; the main tilting game features ten worlds, each with ten levels and a boss stage.

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In case your math skills aren't as good as your gaming, that 100 levels of tilting joy, which isn't as many as previous games in the series but then again, these are ALL new, whereas Super Monkey Ball 2 re-used many of the levels from the original, as did Delux.

Also, unlike Super Monkey Ball 2, Banana Blitz adds many new features to the standard tilting formula. The key to Monkey Ball's success has always been its simplicity, but Banana Blitz manages to enhance and deepen the experience without over-complicating things.

The most prominent addition is of course the ability to jump - just tap A and your monkey will perform a small hop, allowing you to clear small gaps, leap up staircases or avoid obstacles.

This provided Sega with the opportunity to create brand new challenges, like having to pick up enough speed to clear a perilously large gap, but then being faced with a small platform to land and control the ball on, and maybe a few bouncy posts to dodge too. That'll have you visiting the 'retry' screen a fair few times.

Boost arrows, which make your ball charge forward and have previously only appeared in the Monkey Race mini-game, also now appear in the tilt stages to help you up steep hills and various other obstacles. Being able to jump also gives you added opportunities to take shortcuts, leaping off of sections of the level that you're not meant to. We've already seen videos of players pulling off some extraordinary time-saving stunts thanks to the jump ability.

The jump move also lies at the heart of defeating the enormous bosses - another brand-new feature - that you encounter at the end of each world. You'll fight huge robot dinosaurs, giant apes and all manner of strange beasts, each with different weak spots.

Adding even more depth to the single-player game are the new unique attributes of each Monkey Ball character. In previous games there were no noticable differences between the characters. Now, each of the monkeys have their own talents that affect the way you play the game and, in some cases, offer you different routes through levels.

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Gon Gon, the bruiser of the gang, can smash through thin wooden walls and break those annoying bouncy poles, but he has the jumping skills of an elephant. Mimi is fast so she's the one to use when you want to get through levels quickly. Baby's ball is particularly small, allowing him to fit through small holes and down narrow paths that none of the other monkeys can reach.

This is great because you'll find that different monkeys will be better at different levels, and while every level is doable with any monkey, you'll find yourself swapping monkeys to explore new ways through the tougher levels.

It also adds to the game's lifespan for the hardcore crowd who, to prove their skills, might want to go through the game with each monkey.

But these hardcore Monkey Ball fans we talk of will run into problems with Banana Blitz if they expect their ninja skills to convert to the motion-sensing control system of the Wii.

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