Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD – I need a stress ball after playing
There’s some fun to be had, but boss battles are rough.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is the HD rerelease of the 2006 SEGA game with the same name. While there have been some half-hearted mobile games and a few handheld titles, this is Super Monkey Ball’s first appearance on console since the original Banana Blitz.
If you didn’t already know, Super Monkey Ball is a relatively unique idea. You control a monkey in a ball as you navigate a course while collecting bananas and jumping over obstacles. Banana Blitz throws in the added challenge of a boss battle at the end of every zone, as well as some extra modes for group games and individual challenges.
As my experience with Super Monkey Ball has always been on Nintendo consoles, I figured the Nintendo Switch release of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD would naturally be a slam dunk on the Switch. In some ways it is, but hot damn, there some issues when playing the game on the Switch, as well.
I didn’t fare all that well in my playthrough of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD’s story mode. While I did fall off the occasional platform or mess up when going for a high-risk high-reward path, it was the bosses and the game itself that sent my balls grinding to a halt. If you complete an area without a continue, the game rewards you with a special medal. Collect enough medals and you can unlock costumes and characters, like Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s enough to keep you coming back.
The boss fights aren’t the best part of the game
The issue with bosses is that the game tracks directly to their location. This makes it much harder to control your simian and screws up the overall physics of the game.
The second level’s boss took me a solid hour to beat and nearly had me throw my Switch out of absolute frustration. The boss moves around in the small arena-like circle and bumps you if you get too close or get hit by his missiles. Unfortunately, the missiles require you to jump on them to shoot them back at him but they get behind you sometimes, forcing some blind jumps that result in your monkey getting tossed into the abyss. Also, sometimes the game tries to distance you from the boss if he gets close, also forcing you off the platform.
After taking a solid few days to forget my frustration, I found that there was another significant issue with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. The portable Switch mode really made it hard for me to play. When you move your monkey around, the world tilts like a giant game of labyrinth. Because the screen on the Switch isn’t all that large, there’s a whole ton of movement going on in such a small space. There were times where I needed to just look up from the game and just close my eyes to get my senses back together.
Fortunately, the docked version didn’t have this effect on me when I was playing on my TV.
The best part of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is playing with others
Banana Blitz HD features over 100 single-player levels, but most of the magic I experienced was when I dove into the party games with my family. Banana Blitz HD features 10 mini-games that you can play with up to four people that range from arcadey shoot-em-ups to snowboarding. After the absolute crushing frustration of the single-player bosses, it was these mini-games that continually has me coming back for more. The concepts of these mini-games are easy enough that my 6-year old son could get into the thick of it, but offered enough of a learning curve that my 12-year old son and my wife could compete against me.
For those that don’t have many people to play alongside, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD also offers a decathlon mode that allows you to play solo in these game modes to compete in a worldwide leader board. Of course, there is the option of playing the party mini-games with computer-controlled opponents as well. The difficulty options they have will offer just the right amount of challenge to any player’s skill level.
If Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD were a full-priced $60 game, I’d take some offense to it. However, as a $39.99 release ($30 if you have a Walmart locally) you could do worse. This is the type of game you can idly play to pass the time and hand out some Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers to friends along with a few hard drinks to have an amazing time.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD isn’t a masterpiece, but is a solid game with a few rough spots that make it an enjoyable pickup on your Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.
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