When it comes to Sega franchises, the one that comes to mind after Sonic is the Super Monkey Ball series. Almost twenty years have passed since the first Super Monkey Ball game was released on a Nintendo platform and eight years since the last game in the series, Super Monkey Ball 3D was released. It’s been so long since the last game that I wondered if the franchise had been abandoned altogether. But then here comes Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, originally released on the Wii on 2006. But this time it’s in HD.
For those of you who have never played a Super Monkey Ball game, here’s how it works. You play as a monkey inside a ball (shocker, I know) where the aim of the game is to collect as many bananas as possible in each stage and reach the exit before time runs out. You do this by tilting the stage to make your monkey roll but be careful to ensure you don’t end up flying off the edge of the stage to your death. Trust me when I say it’s much more difficult than it sounds.
There are four different modes in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD – Main Game, Party Games, Time Attack and Decathlon.
This is the single player mode and where the main bulk of the gameplay is. There are eight worlds in total, each with their own theme from the tropical forests of Jumble Jungle to the snowy tundras of Smooth Sherbet. In the first couple of worlds, the levels are relatively simple with mostly straight paths or twisted paths that are fenced to reduce your chance of falling in order to help you get used to the controls. Super Monkey Ball has nearly always had you tilt the stage to move rather than you control the character directly but it’s still takes a little while to get used to. You use the left analog stick to tilt the stage while pressing the A button allows you to jump. The controls are quite sensitive so pushing the analog stick too hard will see you ricocheting all over the stage.
As you progress through the worlds the difficulty does ramp up considerably, to the point where I wanted to throw my Switch out the window. If you even slightly start to lose control of the speed of your monkey ball then it’s almost impossible to come back from. That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun because it is for the most part but Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz’s evil staging can be unforgiving.
Where Banana Blitz fails for me is in the boss stages. Firstly, they are not needed. This is not the kind of game that needs boss fights at the end of each world. They could have easily replaced these with like a special stage that has a unique challenge such as collect 3 gold bananas. The boss levels are frustratingly difficult and mostly not enjoyable. One boss fight sees you fighting a gorilla who spins around the stage trying to knock you out and you have to wait until they become too dizzy and hit their weak spot. Sounds simple enough but when you’re frantically tilting to get out the way of their attack, you’re just as likely to send yourself flying to your death. It was a massive sigh of relief when I got past that boss knowing I wouldn’t have to play it ever again.
How you play the game is dependant on which character you choose to play as. You have the options of AiAi who is the overall most balanced character as well as MeeMee, Baby, GonGon, YanYan and Doctor. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses but to me, I didn’t find that much difference between them aside from perhaps GonGon because he is much heavier. Sonic will also be playable but at the time of this review, he was currently not playable.
In the party games mode, you can choose between ten different games to play either on your own or with friends. These games include Space Monkey Attack which sees you trying to shoot down as many enemies as you can, Hurdle Race which has you racing to the finish line while jumping hurdles and Monkey Snowboard where the aim is to snowboard to the finish line. Most of these games are pretty cute and fun for a quick 10 minutes if you have nothing else to do on your own but are best enjoyed in multiplayer. These will for sure be popular mini-games on games night!
Time Attack and Decathlon
Time Attack is pretty self-explanatory where you try to clear worlds in as quick as possible. This is a great mode for those speed run enthusiasts. Decathlon sees you complete against other players worldwide for the highest overall score in the party games. I didn’t find much enjoyment in this though as the party games are better enjoyed in multiplayer.
For those that pick up Super Monkey Ball though, it’s all about the single player and with 100 or so levels for you to play through, there is plenty to keep you busy. Graphically, the game looks a lot prettier than the original Wii version which isn’t surprising but it’s also nothing to really write home about. Like the Wii version though, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz’s biggest issue is the lack of refinement in the controls. The slightest tilt can send you ricocheting to your death and while many of these times will be your own fault, some players will just find the game unforgiving. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is decent enough and if you’ve never played a game in the series before, it’s a decent shout. Let’s just hope that with the next new game in the series, they make improvements to the controls, remove the chore like boss fights and then these monkeys will be unstoppable.
- Over 100 levels
- Fun soundtrack
- Levels are fun and challenging (mostly)
- Boss fights are a pain and cumbersome
- Controls are very sensitive
Verdict: This soup is missing a couple of ingredients while having a couple of harsh unwanted ingredients. Switch the recipe up a little and you’re onto a winner.