Originally released on Wii in 2006, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD has been ported to all modern consoles with an updated coat of visual paint and reworked to support non-motion controls. While it isn’t the best Monkey Ball title, this HD port has enough content to mildly entertain fans that never played the original.
The main mode challenges the player by balancing a ball with a monkey in it from Point A to Point B. Of course there are going to be hazards, jumps, enemies, dips, turns, falls, and moving platforms along the way. Each world is composed of eight individual stages then capped with a boss battle, something that was absent in other Monkey Ball games. Unfortunately, boss battles are the weakest element of the main campaign as they often use cheap tactics to knock the player off the stage for the annoying one-hit death. Players that really want to challenge themselves can aim to claim a couple of medals for each world for playing flawlessly, an incredible challenging task. It provides incentive as they are linked to Achievements/Trophies but most players will just be happy reaching the end of each stage. It is also worth pointing out that there are so secret exits like in previous games but at least there is a stage viewer available from the pause menu.
The original game was designed with motion controls in mind and it shows here in this HD port. If the challenging stage design won’t kill you then the wonky camera will. Since the player actually tilts the environment, not the monkey ball, there is a severe lack of camera control. This makes 180 degree turns nearly impossible and corning roundabouts difficult. At least each of the playable monkeys feature their own strength and weaknesses, making some simians better for a given stage. Additional costumes are also unlockable for each monkey and Sonic The Hedgehog makes his way into the game as an unlockable character for those willing to put in the work to earn him (the bananas found on each stage also turn into rings for added flare).
However, it wouldn’t be a Monkey Ball game without mini-games. Although there are several to select here in Banana Blitz HD, some are actually unplayable. The Hovercraft mini game, for example, is way too difficult to control and the Snowboarding game is much too loose. The Slingshot game is also way too touchy, Monkey Flight isn’t as good as the original games, and the lack of Monkey Fight is a mega disappointment. Perhaps if these games were initially designed with a controller interface in mind as opposed to Wii motion controls they could have fared better.
There are online leaderboards to enhance replayability but is pretty misleading. Leaderboards are only supported in the Time Trial mode and the new Decathlon mode; they are not available for mini-games or the main campaign. Making matters worse, there are only three time trials available – the final two need to be unlocked and force the player to play through multiple worlds in a row until completed. The can easily take hours depending on the skill of the player. Since there is no leaderboard support for the main campaign, there is no incentive for collecting the scattered bananas found in each level or aiming for a faster time. Not only is the scoring system a moot point, the lives/continue system also doesn’t mean anything since the player can restart right from the same stage upon death. These odd and lacking design choices really hold back the entire experience. But at least everything now looks big and colorful thanks to the HD updating. The lack of loading screens give the player much to be thankful for too. Unfortunately, the monkey quips, grunts, and cries get annoying rather quickly.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is not the best Monkey Ball title available but this HD re-release makes it easy for fans to give this forgotten Wii title a second life since they probably missed it the first time around. Although there are plenty of flaws and lacking features, this game still has balls with monkeys in them that are defined as being super… and it is hard to get too upset at this fact.
Also available on Switch, PS4, and Steam (and original version on Wii).
Not As Good As: Super Monkey Ball 1 or 2 on GameCube
Don’t Forget About: Super Monkey Ball Jr. (GBA)
Also Try: Marble It Up! (Switch)