Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Review

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Out of all the obscure games that have been getting the remaster treatment as of late, I don’t think any surprised and excited me more than Super Monkey Ball. I think my specific words when I was asked if I wanted to review this game a month out, was “holy sh*t yeah!”, so you could say that I have a little bit of an attachment to this game. With the cult classic Super Monkey Ball series falling into obscurity over the past years, is this HD treatment enough to still hold its original charm and win over new fans in the process – Let’s find out!
 
Release DateOctober 29, 2019
GenreFamily Friendly / Platformer
PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC (soon)
DeveloperSega
Price$33.88 – $39.99
ESRB RatingE-10 (it’s because of the booby boss)
Players1 – 4 Players
 
To those of you uneducated in the ways of money balls, Super Monkey Ball was a series of games in the early 2000s with the concept of controlling a stage trying to roll a ball into the end hoop, a la marble rolling games. The only catch here is that that ball has a cartoon monkey in it, you collect bananas, and the only thing crazier than that is the theme and design of the stages.
 
When I was a kid I used to go to a friend’s house who owned super monkey ball and we’d play competitive mini-games (which make a return) against each other – specifically one where you use your ball as a parachute and try to land on a target. Herein lies my attachment to the charming series. My other attachment being a deep dive where I briefly went through a spell of watching speed runs of the old games which have an avid and bonkers speedrunning community. And for good reason. 
 
Nothing feels quite as good as when he hit that perfect run where you feel like you couldn’t have possibly gone any faster (you absolutely could have) and hit that goal. You see the gameplay hook is very simple; control which way the stage leans and when the monkey jumps. That’s it. But you’d be surprised just how much can be manipulated through that. Ramming your ball against a wall to start momentum in the other direction and jumping over sections of the track are only two methods and they take major time to hone in, but wow does it feel good when you nail it. And you’ll want to because time, speed, and perfection are the biggest things Super Monkey Ball encourages. The ability to speed up through intros, online leaderboards, a giant countdown timer that goes to milliseconds, and separate medals all challenge the player for just one more go to get the very best run out of each world. 
Landing a stage shortcut jump is one of the best feelings I’ve gotten in games in a while.
 
There are a total of six unique playable characters and eight wonderfully themed worlds with ten stages that each gradually get harder until your pitted against a boss on stage ten. These boss battles seem to mostly be where Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Remastered actually drops the proverbial ball. While the boss designs seem somewhat inspired, as do the rest of the character and stage designs, this game simply isn’t a platformer where a boss fight is the most accurate way of testing a player’s developed skills. The other way in which these stages suffer is bringing out all that is wrong with the camera, eventually becoming a larger problem in the later stages. You control the entire game with just the left stick and a jump button. Some of the charm comes through the mastery of this simple design but when you need to turn around the game can take a while to swing and this camera problem tends to taint the accuracy of careful balancing stages. Since you are controlling the stage rather than the monkey I understand that it wouldn’t have worked to control the camera with the right stick but this game could have definitely benefitted from the inclusion of a snap camera feature mapped to a button. Thankfully the faithful and skilled speed-running community has proven that these problems are far from deal breakers in what is normally a charming and fun gameplay loop.
 
Each world has a theme which plays into the gameplay and overall feel – Lava and Pirates are just two of the eight!
 
Apart from the main eight worlds and regular gameplay loop the game also offers a few other game modes that include Time Attack, Multiplayer Mini-games, and the all-new Decathlon mode (psst, it’s just the mini-games all in one go with online leaderboards). While the mini-games are fun with friends, as you could tell by my enthusiastic intro, they hardly add anything of substance to the game apart from seemingly random games and overly simplistic gameplay. However, there is a clear standout game called Dangerous Route which essentially acts as a top-down version of the regular gameplay except controlling the monkey and increased difficulty. Other than that one caveat, the mini-games would never be enough to hold anyone’s attention passed the first couple of times you touch them. Even though these games don’t prove to be anything more than padding, the game still offers dozens of hours of gameplay for those who feel so inclined to best stages and master characters (and the game does a pretty good job of making you want to).
 
Snowboarding and a Space Invaders clone are just two of these strange and simplistic minigames.
 
CONCLUSION
 
While this Remaster improves upon technical ability and smooths the graphics out really making the cute art style pop, the idea of a series like Super Monkey Ball reaching a wider audience is the biggest thing this game offers the world. 
 
ProsCons
Easy to pick up, tough to masterCamera Issues
Inventive Stage DesignPointless Boss Battles
Overall CharmLackluster Mini-games