In my humble opinion, it had been far too long since the Super Monkey Ball monkeys had a main entry on a major console. Now Aiai, Meemee, Gongon, and friends are back for an HD remaster of their Nintendo Wii launch title, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz. For fans of Monkey Ball, re-releasing this early Wii game may seem questionable on its face. While some aspects certainly have not aged well, the new shine given to the core the game successfully reminds us how fun and delightful the series can be.
The traditional, pure Monkey Ball experience is a simple one. Broken down to its essence, it’s a game where you’re trying to maneuver a ball into a hole. However, it’s the charm of the series, its creative while challenge designed levels, and tight controls that makes a great Super Monkey Ball game.
At the dawn of the Wii, in a pre Wii Motion Plus world, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz felt like an experimental game that had to be designed around the limitations of the platform. Playing it on a PlayStation 4, not only has the game’s eight worlds and lovable characters been visually upgraded from their original 480p presentation, but the motion controls have been replaced with the precise movements of an analog stick. The stages themselves have been given slight changes to remove the clear in-level assists made to compensate for the imprecise control of the original Wii release. These upgrades have really made the core of Banana Blitz come into its own.
Banana Blitz HD also comes with a brand new style for the game and series with a stylish black and yellow color palette for its newly designed sharp menus and UI. While a small touch, it presents Monkey Ball Banana Blitz in a modern light. Of course, as it goes with many remasters, not everything here has changed or aged well.
While playing Banana Blitz is a great time, it’s also a short time. Its arcade style campaign, with a sudden difficulty spike near the end, takes about three hours to complete. There are leaderboards and high score challenges, but I really was hungering for more levels to explore with my monkey friends. That ramp in difficulty can be frustrating, but I found those levels to be some of the most satisfying to finish.
Banana Blitz HD does come with a collection of ten multiplayer mini games, chosen from the original game’s 50, but even this curated selection of mini games feels outdated outside of their original Wii package. Games like Whack-a-Mole clearly feel like they’ve been stripped of their motion controls, and others like Monkey Snowboarding feel stiff and unresponsive. This is by far the weakest component of Banana Blitz HD, and it’s also the other half of this package apart from the game’s single player, contributing to that feeling of wanting something more.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD feels like feasting on an appetizer. Incredibly delicious, but not at all filling. I’ve had many moments of just pure fun with Banana Blitz HD and I hope this is a promising first step with more to come for the series, but I can’t shake the feeling that Banana Blitz HD should offer more. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last time we see this monkey crew.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro with a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.