Super Monkey Ball has officially made a comeback, delivering up the first console game since 2012. Making its debut on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, how does Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD handle the big leagues?
It’s been a hot minute since I played a Super Monkey Ball game, but the original Gamecube games ate up a lot of my childhood so the news that the Nintendo Switch would be getting a new game made me feel all warm inside.
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If you’ve never played a Super Monkey Ball game, the concept is very simple: you’re a monkey, you’re in a ball and you have to get through the “Goal” of each level, traversing pinball-like platforms and avoiding obstacles.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is, of course, a revisit of the Nintendo Wii’s Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, but its updated and fresh new look makes it feel almost like a brand-new addition to the series. Almost.
Booting up the game immediately showed off just how glorious the likes of AiAi, MeeMee and Baby look in HD. Everything about this game is just really, really pretty and – thanks to the simplicity of the level design and style – it immediately takes me back to the GC games.
The first few worlds of the game were incredibly easy and provided absolutely no challenge for me. This was totally fine and expected, because as is typical of the genre, the difficulty level increases as you master the controls and stage hacks.
But then came boss levels. As in the Wii original, the end of each world presents players with a boss battle. Each boss has a weak point that you need to jump at and hit with your ball, which seems easy enough but…what’s the point? The boss levels were tedious and featured unnecessarily challenging obstacles. They didn’t seem to have any relevance to the world and I’d have much, much rather had an extra-hard level to cap off the world, rather than a bomb-throwing boss with regenerating health.
The camera angles here were also pretty tricky. For boss battles, the camera angle tries to fix in a set place, but this became more of a hindrance than a help. It meant that avoiding targeted attacks from bosses involved a lot of guess work as you couldn’t see the missiles if they were behind you. I’d argue that boss battles are completely unnecessary in a game where you’re literally a monkey in a ball.
During the final few worlds of the game the difficulty level was so amped up that levels became pretty tricky to nail, but that only seemed to make smashing through that Goal banner ever-more satisfying. The latter levels are definitely going to test your skills, though they might prove too complex for younger players. Don’t let these cutesy monkeys deter you – this is actually an incredibly challenging puzzle game when you get down to it.
One of the best features of the Gamecube games were the mini-games, and Banana Blitz on the Wii had a huge selection of 50 mini-games. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, however, has trimmed the fat down to 10 of the most-popular games.
A personal favourite mini-game of mine was Monkey Target, which saw you shoot off a ramp into the ocean with the aim of landing on one of a number of islands and earning points.
Unfortunately, this new Monkey Target just didn’t stack up compared to the Gamecube version. The skills needed in the original seem to have been replaced with more luck-based mechanics, and so sadly, this mini-game was a big disappointment for me.
The other mini-games are lot a less imaginative, and pale in comparison to say, the mini-games from Super Mario Party. They were fun in small doses, but not the sort of things you could pour hours into. If you were planning on picking up Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD for its mini-games, be warned that they’re not one of the strengths of the game.
If you were looking to buy Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD to dive into for a level or two in your spare time, it’s ideal. Personally, I’d say this is must-have game if you’re going to be playing on the Switch. It’s one of those titles that really benefits from a ten minute playthrough while you’re commuting to work, or find yourself with a bit of extra time. There’s a lot of replayability with the title thanks to its time-based ratings and its new Decathlon Mode. It’s also fun to play with others, and there’s now the leaderboards to take into account for those with a competitive streak.
What you’ll get out of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD depends on your style as a gamer. If you’re looking for a fun title that you can enjoy in short bursts, or if you just have a soft spot for the series, this is a must-add to your collection. If you’re looking for anything else, this might not be the game for you.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD releases on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, October 29, 2019. A PC release is planned for a later date.
Featured Image Credit: SEGA