Take a ball, insert a monkey. Set it loose on a track, uh… funky! Monkey Ball lives again in the form of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. But how does it hold up in the light of 2019? Is it yeah-yeah-yeah, or bah-nah-nah?
Starting life in Japanese arcades, complete with a banana for a controller (not a real one, because eww), Monkey Ball soon hit home for Nintendo’s GameCube, gaining a ‘Super’ prefix as it went. There have been several iterations since, but they all basically adhere to the original plan, whereby you tilt the world to guide your Monkey Ball through increasingly treacherous mid-air tracks. Basically, it’s Marble Madness viewed from a different angle, but with more of a simian – and cutesy – bent.
2006 saw the release of the original Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz for the Wii, the seventh in the home-released series. This HD update doesn’t stray far from the formula established therein, save for burning the blasted motion controls that this release introduced whereby an upward flick made your ball jump. When it actually worked. A big tick for losing that one, although the actual action of jumping remains.
As well as going all waggly, Banana Blitz also introduced boss battles. Great.
Basically, all that was there in 2006 is here now, save for a whopping 40 minigames. Admittedly most of them were a bit crap, plus many relied on motion controls, so the remaining ten are allegedly the best of the remaining bunch (sorry… not sorry). What is new here is ‘Decathlon’, a competitive mode for up to four players in which you have to score the best that you can in all ten minigames in a row. High scores are saved online, so you can see how you compare with other Monkey Ballers worldwide.
Speaking of worldwide scores, the ‘Time Attack’ mode, whereby you have to complete all of a level’s stages as quickly as possible – which we guess is fairly obvious from the title – now saves your feats online.
So, what about the gameplay? Well, to be honest it’s just as frustrating as ever. When your ball goes where you want it to it’s a whole load of fun, but when it goes all mind-of-its-own (OK, so when whomever is controlling it stuffs up) it can be controller-heaving infuriating. Not even the gorgeously boppy opening screen J-pop ditty can calm the unleashed ape.
“With its fab cartoon visuals it may look like a friendly game for young kids, but it isn’t…”
Meanwhile, the boss levels still seem totally out of place, and little clue as to what is required in each of them is provided. With its fab cartoon visuals it may look like a friendly game for young kids, but it isn’t as, believe us from experience, it will end in tears. And that was just adult us, we haven’t even got to the nephew…
Ultimately, the series entry chosen here to remaster leaves us wondering, as earlier iterations of Super Monkey Ball were arguably much more fun. Ideally, we’d be playing something combining elements from the greatest hits of the game, not just a wagglebox rejig.
If you’re a fan of the series and the prospect of rolling a monkey around in a ball still appeals (we could have punned up there) then see how you go with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, but – save for a cool unlockable then playable Sonic the Hedgehog – there really isn’t anything that we haven’t seen or played before.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is available now for PS4, Xbox One and Switch.