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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

Go monkey mad as one of our favourite games hits Wii

If we had to guess 12 months ago which established games would be most intuitively controllable using the Wii remote, the tilty world of Monkey Ball would be right up there with Pilotwings as an absolute must for the new console.

And we reckon that's still the case. Hand the remote to an absolute Monkey Ball novice and they'll be rolling around the levels every bit as fast - if not faster - than they would in the original. It's incredibly easy to pick up. Because of the physicality of the remote, tilting and twisting it actually gives a better idea of how much 'pressure' you're applying than simply pushing an analogue thumbstick ever could.

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But while regulating your speed is very simple to do, moving in a precisely straight line is much tougher. Stopping still can be hard, especially towards the end of a level, when your hands grow tired from the tension.

Monkey Done
So the game has been redesigned with levels that make the most of the controller's strengths, while avoiding challenges that might prove annoying. For example, if you find you can't stop at the end of a steep runway, there's every chance you can employ the new (and brilliant) jumping ability to launch off the end and land safely somewhere else.

The aim is still to roll your ball to the goal at the end of the course but now the courses tend to have wider roads, dimples where your ball can rest and a lot of areas where you can practise your jumping. Each set of eight levels features a different boss character, which is another particularly welcome addition.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is a blast to play, and it never takes itself seriously enough to punish you for basic mistakes or present you with impossible challenges. The later levels are hard but they're so well designed, they stand up to repeated play.

Ape Escape
On top of all this there are 50 minigames, some of which are incredibly basic, and probably won't get more than a cursory examination before being abandoned in the depths of the multiplayer menus. But given a choice between this and Rayman Raving Rabbids, on a purely party game basis, we're confi dent that Monkey Ball is the one you're more likely to be loading up in a few months' time.

For starters, the substantial multiplayer selections - the ones you're going to be playing and replaying during an evening sesh - are proper games, not just tests to see how fast you can shake the remote before your elbows cry 'uncle'.

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Old Favourites
Monkey Target is there, and while it's still a long way from the simple purity of the original version, piloting your monkeys on to increasingly smaller targets is just about as satisfying as it is competitive.

You can play a full round of Monkey Golf or, if swinging a putter isn't your thing, how about a Disc Golf variant, which involves a completely different type of wrist-flicking skill?

Dangerous Route is a hair-raising race around barrierless courses that completely aces anything in Rayman for speed and breakneck thrills. And, like more than 40 of the other games, several players can compete at once if you've got enough spare controllers. The rest have alternating multiplayer modes, which makes perfect sense when you're talking about things like darts, bowling, hammer-throwing and the home run derby.

In fact, every single one of them offers some sort of multiplayer competition in which you can set a number of rounds or aim to be fi rst to hit a target score. In that respect, it completely puts Rayman - and most other games - to shame. All it needed on top of this little lot was maybe a Mario Party-style board game and a few more options to flesh out some of the challenges that could almost form the basis of full games. But we shouldn't complain. Very little of Banana Blitz is even remotely bad.

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