The original launch of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz landed on the Nintendo Wii in 2006, which was a launch title for the system. At the time, we lost the ability to play the game in a traditional way, trading analog sticks for motion-controls, which for me, made the game unplayable. See, controls at the time were not as intuitive as they are today and trying to play a game where precision is a huge part of the gameplay on a Wiimote wasn’t worth the headache.
My experience with the series is Super Monkey Ball on GameCube and one of the iOS game Super Monkey Ball back when the App Store first launched. I thoroughly enjoyed the original and remember how much my cousins loved this game before letting me borrow it for a time. The fun was genuinely contagious and learning to maneuver each course was a skill in itself. As for the Wii, I rented Banana Blitz from my local Blockbuster and returned it a day later, never touching it again.
Now, nearly 13 years and a few consoles later, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is here and offers a second chance for the series to make things right. I’ve spent a few weeks with the game and find it much more enjoyable than it was but being a remaster, Banana Blitz is still a game made with 2006 tendencies, like the addition of a jump button which makes adds its own growing pains to the formula.
The original 100 levels return and look good but still feel dated in 2019. Rolling around pre-built courses while trying to build speed, avoid obstacles and not falling off edges is fun and exciting, often requiring the precision only proper controls can bring. With those now back for the HD remaster, controlling your character is less of a hassle and requires accuracy when attempting to maneuver each level while collecting the bananas strewn about for extra lives. At the end of each world, you’ll face a boss, but these are pretty weak themselves.
Each boss arrives after a dozen or so levels and is either tolerable or insufferable. I hated every minute of these encounters. Playing through levels is where the fun lies and knowing that I was encroaching on a boss meant my dread rose with every level completed. Encounters are tedious, unintuitive, and frustrating to say the least and quite honestly leave much to be desired as even those well-telegraphed weak pints end up becoming a nuisance to nail the target.
The multiplayer has also been dialled back in order to adjust for lack of motion-controls today. Nintendo Wii’s version included 50 minigames to accommodate players and showcase what the Wii could do. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD downsizes the number of minigames from 50 to a minuscule 10 that work with the traditional controls. Unfortunately, the original bunch were created with the Wii’s controls in mind and those are gone leaving games like Monkey Snowboard, Monkey Target, Space Monkey Attack, and Hurdle Race intact.
While Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz offers some fun courses and places to play around in, it’s only a remaster and not a new game. That means issues that popped up in the original show up here and switch to traditional controls don’t do enough to alleviate those issues. In 2019, the landscape is vastly different than in 2006. I’d love to see what Sega can do with a new entry for current generation consoles and mobile devices. There are some small moments that this game shines but mostly lacks the excitement I want from the series. For what is offered, if you’ve never played any of the Super Monkey Ball series, this is a decent starting point and will keep you busy, otherwise, you’ve already played this and don’t need to check things out again.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]