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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD PS4 Review

8 min read
This game will make you go bananas, seriously.

This game will make you go bananas, seriously.

What They Say:
Hold onto your bananas, because Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is rolling your way! Experience the magic of one of the most beloved titles in the series, now remastered in HD! Head back into the fantastical world of Super Monkey Ball and take back your bananas from the space alien pirate king, Captain Crabuchin. Race through over 100 colorful stages and challenge your friends and family to 10 fan-favorite Party Games! Feeling like the fastest, most maneuverable monkey around?

Content:
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a remake of the original game that was released for the Nintendo Wii in 2006. I actually played the original back in the days when I was still a young lad. Time sure does fly by, huh? I was surprised by the decision to remaster this particular Monkey Ball game instead of some of the other popular ones. Regardless, I remember having a moderate amount of fun with the original Banana Blitz game. I also remember being extremely frustrated with it. How does the HD remake hold up?

The biggest change in the HD remake is the elimination of motion controls. This decision made sense since they wanted to make the game widely available across all consoles and on the PC. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the motion controls anyways, to be honest. I liked that they kept the controls simple. You only ever use two buttons while playing the game, the left analog stick to move around and the X button to jump. This made jumping and movement much easier to control than the original game. I definitely appreciated that. That being said, I could also see the appeal of having kept the motion controls. At the very least, they should have kept that option available for the Switch version but they didn’t. An odd choice, not going to lie.

The main game consists of eight worlds that each contain 10 stages – 8 regular stages, 1 bonus stage, and a boss stage. You have a choice of six different monkeys that you can choose to play as and each one has different stats. I firmly believe that your character choice is important. I can’t tell you how many times I had trouble clearing certain stages and the fix was to simply switch characters. Having trouble completing a stage within the time limit? Consider using Doctor, the character with the highest speed stats. Keep getting blown off the stage? Try GonGon, the heaviest monkey in the game and the toughest to push off. If you don’t like switching characters constantly, go with one that has balanced stats like Ai Ai. Being aware of each character’s stats will help you in the long run.

The objective of each stage is to get your monkey-in-a-ball to the goal within the time limit. Easy, right? Haha. Even with the simplified control schemes, this game is no less frustrating than the original. If you thought this was going to be a walk in the park, well, you’re in for a rude awakening. The stages get increasingly more difficult as you progress through the worlds. While the first few worlds are fairly easy, the later ones are quite challenging. Frustratingly so if I may add. To put it in perspective, it took me five minutes to clear the first world while the seventh one took me a whopping five hours. The seventh world, the Volcanic Pools, is the bane of my existence.

You cannot begin to imagine the frustration I felt during some of the more arduous stages. No matter what I did or which character I chose, I just couldn’t clear them and I felt like I never would. Gosh, maybe I just really suck at the game? I wanted to throw my controller against the wall multiple times. By the way, please don’t actually throw your controllers at the wall when you get frustrated. The controllers did nothing wrong! The point is that I was really annoyed. On the topic of annoying things, I really hate that there’s no button that resets the camera in the game. There were many times where I’d be facing an odd direction and I’d be stuck in weird positions. This led me to miss many jumps and fall numerous times. So aggravating…

I definitely had to cool my jets a few times. But once I did, I had renewed determination. I wasn’t going to let this game beat me! As is the case with any challenging game of this nature, you will keep failing over and over again. Of course, you will feel frustrated but the key is to learn from your failures. Little by little, you’ll identify what you’re doing wrong and that will hopefully lead you to get better at the game. I kept at it, slowly but surely. And guess what? I finally managed to overcome those stages that plagued me and beat the main game. Oh boy, did it feel great! Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when you conquer a tough game.

Once you beat the main game, you’re rewarded with a secret unlockable character that turns out to be none other than Sonic the Hedgehog! You also unlock a bonus world that you can play. I have to admit that Sonic was a great addition to the game. He just fits so well. The ninth world even has some shuttle hoops as you would see in his games. Although, running through those hoops isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, for me at least. One cool thing I’d like to mention is that if you choose Sonic, the bananas that appear in the stages become golden rings instead. A very nice touch I must say. But the fun (and frustration) don’t stop there. There is more stuff to unlock and that gives you some incentive to keep playing the game.

I’d like to backtrack a bit and discuss the boss battles at the end of each stage. Each boss has a weakness and it is highlighted at the start of the battle. Thus, you always know exactly what you have to do. The challenge is trying to attack that weak spot while avoiding numerous hurdles. There were a few annoying boss battles but for the most part they weren’t too bad. Honestly, that bummed me out. I know I’ve mentioned being frustrated with the tougher stages but I actually wanted the bosses to be more challenging. I am of the belief that the boss stage should be the most challenging stage of any world but that wasn’t the case for most of them. In fact, compared to some of the toughest stages in the game, the boss battles were easy in comparison. Even the final boss was much easier to defeat than I had anticipated. Regardless, I still had fun with the boss battles.

Once you beat the main game, there’s still plenty of stuff for you to do. While the original Banana Blitz game had 50 multiplayer mini-games, the HD remake only includes 10 of the best ones. I’m fine with this since most of those mini-games weren’t great anyway. I was saddened to learn that Monkey Bowling didn’t make the cut. However, I am extremely thankful that they included Whack-a-Mole as one of the 10 mini-games because I usually played it after completing some of the harder stages in the main game. It was the perfect avenue to release my frustration and it worked wonders. The allure of these mini-games is that you can play them with other people. Sadly, you can only do so locally and not online which I think is a missed opportunity. I still had a lot of fun with these mini-games when I invited some friends over to play them with me. It was also nice to see other people being frustrated at the game instead of myself. I know, I’m terrible.

If you like speedrunning, Time Attack mode is for you. Complete all the stages in each of the worlds as fast as you can and see how you match up against people all over the world on the Online leaderboards. I’m terrible at speedruns. On the other hand, I did rather well in the Decathlon Score Attack mode. Decathlon mode has you play each of the 10 mini-games in succession as you try to get the highest score. I actually made it to the top three of the Online leaderboards for this at one point! I’m quite proud of that. I have since fallen from that position but I’ll always have the memories.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention the updated graphics. They are vastly improved and all the worlds look absolutely stunning. Each stage is so colorful and vibrant. I often found myself just pausing the game to admire the beauty of each of the worlds. Pirate’s Ocean is an absolute gem of a world and it’s my personal favorite. One thing I was not pleased with was the fact that pretty much all of the music tracks from the original game were absent. The soundtrack for Banana Blitz HD was fine but it really made me miss the tracks from the original. At the same time, I loved the opening theme for this game. It’s just so darn catchy! I hummed the song a lot whenever I started playing the game.

BA-NA-NA, BABY YOU’RE A MONKEY!

In Summary:
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a game that can be a lot of fun but can also make you go bananas. It’s certainly a challenging game but it feels so rewarding once you manage to beat it. Of course, how difficult the game actually is for you will depend on how skilled you are. While it was a tough challenge for me, it could be fairly easy for you. Who knows? The graphics are gorgeous, the soundtrack is decent, and the mini-games are fun to play with other people. There were some missed opportunities though such as a lack of online multiplayer. All things considered, there’s a reasonable amount of enjoyment and replayability to be had with this game. Although, I’m not entirely sure if that enjoyment is worth the $39.99 price tag. Just my honest opinion. Let’s just be happy that we even have a Monkey Ball game to play in this day and age.

Grade: C+

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA / RGG Studio
Genre: Action Platformer

Age Rating: E10+ (Mild Cartoon Violence, Suggestive Themes)
Number of Players: 1 – 4 (Local)
Release Date: October 29, 2019 (North America and Europe)
MSRP: $39.99 US
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, XBox One, Steam

This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.


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