It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new Super Monkey Ball game. Other than an iOS and Android title, the last time we saw the gerbil ball containing monkeys was way back in 2012 with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz for the PlayStation Vita. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD isn’t a remake of the Wii original, it’s more of a remaster, but with how much I love these charming monkeys, I’m okay with it.
Or that’s what I was thinking going into it. I’m having a hard time wanting to be critical of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. I went into it for the first time really excited to play a franchise I think so fondly of. About halfway through, the nostalgia glasses came off, and I was disappointed in the presentation and execution.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. If you enjoyed Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz when it launched for the Wii, you’ll enjoy this outing. It’s familiar, relatively relaxing, and scratches that “one more try” itch. Players maneuver a small monkey in a ball around stages collecting bananas until they reach the end of the stage. I used to love playing Labyrinth when I was younger. You know, the one where you control a marble on a wooden board with two knobs to alter the trajectory? Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD plays just like that but way cuter.
There are several different monkeys, that all have different stats that affect how stages play out, from maneuverability to speed. They’re honestly small differences, so it won’t change the game drastically, but it’s still something to think about when choosing which monkey you want to play as. It ultimately doesn’t matter, because you can play through every stage as each monkey if you want to, and you will need to for a trophy or achievement, so the stats are rendered relatively moot.
More than anything, the big issue here are the controls and camera. Joysticks are incredibly touchy, and the camera either can’t keep up or goes too far. I haven’t had motion sickness from any PSVR game since around launch time, so I was surprised when I started getting a dull pulsing headache from playing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. After an hour or two of playing it got progressively worse and I’d have to move to another game and come back to this one.
It’s not something I remember having an issue with in the original release. Maybe it’s because I was using motion controls on the Wii, and actually moving around a bit physically helped offset this. When I stopped trying to get as many bananas as possible, I didn’t have as much trouble with dizziness and headaches because I wasn’t trying to spin back around to collect ones I missed. But this is a game literally built on rotating a map to propel a monkey to the end of a course with gravity and momentum, and getting motion sickness from the core mechanics of a game is a bad sign.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD follows AiAi and his friends as they try to recover the Golden Banana Bunch from Captain Crabuchin. It’s a really simple premise, and that’s okay, because most people aren’t going to jump in for the story. The core gameplay hasn’t changed much over the years, but Banana Blitz features boss fights at the end of each world that are fine, if not unremarkable. They aren’t necessary, and take away from the gameplay loop that people love.
I mentioned before that this is more of a remaster than a remake. I’m okay with a remaster, or any game really, that doesn’t get new textures or increased visual fidelity as long as the game runs well. This outing runs silky smooth at 60fps throughout, and while it definitely doesn’t look like a current gen game, the colors are extremely vibrant, and everything visuals pop in each area.
Despite the campaign being relatively short, there’s still plenty to do in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. There are time attack modes (that end in the unremarkable boss fights), and the all-new Decathlon mode that challenges players to beat all ten mini-games in a row. The time attack modes are probably the least interesting of them all. The unwieldy boss fights at the end of each run grind time attack to a halt as I try to position myself with the unwieldy camera to hit a specific spot on the enemy as quickly as possible.
The Decathlon mode, while far more interesting, also suffers from touchy controls. Luckily, the cream of the crop mini-games from the original Banana Blitz made it to this release, and instead of reworking all of them just for the sake of getting them in, SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have chosen the ten best ones from the 2006 release. I just wish some of the mini-games made more sense after even two or three times through, but maybe I’m overthinking some of them or the controls and camera made them tough for me.
There’s four player local co-op here too, which I didn’t have the chance to try out. My wife came in at one point while I was playing and exclaimed about how cute it was. After agreeing to play it with me she watched me struggle against the camera and controls for a little while and opted out. For those that don’t want to do co-op there are new leaderboards for both time attack and Decathlon mode, so you can pit your times and scores against others around the world. Not to sound braggy, but I was ranked second on the board for a long time in the first time attack challenge.
It sucks though, because I remembered Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz very fondly from the Wii, despite the motion controls and mediocre boss battles. The addictive and fast-paced gameplay makes for a great party game, or a chill night with a partner. I just wish it wasn’t giving me headaches after a couple of hours, and I didn’t feel like I was always in a losing battle with the camera, because Super Monkey Ball as a franchise is still just as charming as it always has been. Now, where’s that Ape Escape remake, because this release could use a couple of updates before I jump back in.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD
- AiAi and the gang are back!
- Takes the ten best mini-games from the original release, and doubles down on them.
- Lots to do, from campaign to leaderboard grinding.
- TRULY awful camera and touchy controls.
- Less content than the original.
- A couple of the mini-games are confusing.
- Headaches after an hour or two.