When it was at its apex, I never got around to playing Super Monkey Ball. Yes, I (twice) owned a Nintendo GameCube but it was just one of those series that never did enough draw me in. When word came out that a “new” SMB was coming soon, I thought that this could be a great chance to see what I missed out on almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I can confidently say that Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD and the SMB franchise is just not for me.
The concept is pretty straightforward. Your goal is to help guide a monkey, which also happens to live inside a ball, from the start of a level to its end. Instead of controlling the monkey ball, you’re manipulating the environment by tilting it in different directions to move it.
For the most part, this is a puzzle game where you’re trying to figure out how to reach the finish line: you’ll have to navigate around traps, enemies, gaps and other obstacles before the stage timer runs out.
SMB Banana Biltz HD is the remake of the 2006 Nintendo Wii game. In that one, it implemented the console’s motion controls to move the ball. However, for this update, it takes that aspect away and you’re just controlling the world with the analog stick. Some of the levels have also changed to show this change and of course, the visuals see a 2019-update.
My frustration with the game is probably some of the same reasons the original game was panned in 2006. Removing the motion controls for standard analog controls was a good idea, but the controls feel too loose at times and the camera is too close to the action.
You also cannot adjust the camera, so if for whatever reasons, you are unable to line up your ball exactly, you will just end up falling off the stage and having to restart. The close camera perspective is especially frustrating when you’re moving fast, on a thin piece of the stage, or in situations where you need to do a couple of different actions in short succession. Not hitting each point exactly only leads to more frustration than success.
There is the option to adjust ‘camera sensitivity’ in the options menu (which you have to back out all the way to the main menu to get access to), but regardless of where I set it, I never felt comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some really interesting and creative stages but once you hit that point where you’re unable to do something exactly as its intended, dying over and over leads to you just wanting to move on or to quit.
The game’s main single-player mode doesn’t do much to convey a story. Each “world” has its theme and they all consist of eight regular stages, a bonus stage, and one boss battle. For what it’s worth, the boss stages are quite fun and challenging. While they each have their obvious ‘hit the red-marked spot to do damage’, there is enough variety that you feel a slight sense of accomplishment when you defeat one.
Outside of the main mode, there are a few party games, but only 10 in comparison to the 50 that appeared in the original. There are a few standouts (I quite liked Seesaw Ball) but a few that are just not fun. If you’re planning on playing these with others, make sure to give your guests a few minutes to get familiar with mini-games.
As for online play, there is no simultaneous option with the party games. However, there is a Decathalon Mode, that has you completing all ten party games as quickly as possible in the hopes of getting the highest score. The other online mode is Time Attack. There you attempt to complete the different levels as quickly as possible to get the best time.
I wanted to like Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD more that I did. However, the frustration caused by the controls and camera angle just made that impossible. It’s been five years between Super Monkey Ball releases and I don’t see this being the resurgence Sega was hoping for.
Sega supplied a retail code of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD for the purpose of this review.