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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2019

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.

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PS4 Review - 'Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD'

by Joseph Doyle on Dec. 20, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

AiAi and friends come to the modern consoles in this all-action extravaganza of unique puzzles and madcap multiplayer gameplay.

Buy Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD

The Super Monkey Ball series can be distilled down to guiding a monkey in a ball through a challenging course. However, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD reminds us how much more a game like this can offer, especially at a time when both platforming and arcade games are largely out of vogue. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, best known for its work on the Yakuza games, stepped up to the plate for SEGA and developed the remake, ironing out many wrinkles in the 13-year-old game. From a completely different control scheme to cleaned-up graphics, this new version breathes life into the game while preserving the overall look and feel of the original, making Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD a fun, casual arcade title for this console generation.

The meat and potatoes of Banana Blitz HD is the gameplay, but it's more than just balancing a monkey on weird, choppy board. Getting down to brass tacks, this title embraces one of the best approaches to skill in video games: simple to understand yet difficult to master. A lot of this is due to the approachability of the controls; you simply tilt the analog stick to control the stage and use one button to jump over obstacles to get the monkey to the end of the stage. That's it. The best analog is perhaps the worst toy to give to a child — plastic mazes with the metal ball in them — except with dozens of iterations, jumping, and infinitely more interest.


The game does push people; it takes patience, practice, and skill to get the momentum and timing correct to obtain all the bananas in the stage (giving you more lives and allowing you to unlock more costumes if you complete the world without running out). This translates pretty well from the original, where you would use the Wiimote's gyroscope to control the stage, but it doesn't take away from this version whatsoever.

The levels are varied enough to keep the player on their toes, and the game has a fantastic system of gradually increasing difficulty. There are also several different monkeys to choose from, with different speed, jumping, weight stats and more, adding a layer of customization and difficulty if you choose. This game isn't perfect. There's no way to control the camera, which makes it incredibly frustrating to navigate turns, and this coalesces with the boss battles, which lock on to the enemy but also frustratingly expect precision in your jumping and manipulation. While one may go to the right analog stick to control the camera more often than not, Banana Blitz HD is a game loaded to the gills with fun and perfectly challenging content.


The aforementioned aspects of the game only apply to the Main Game and Time Attack modes of Banana Blitz HD, but there's also a host of party games for you to play with friends. These don't mimic the rest of the gameplay in the slightest, offering up games that range from shotput to snowboarding to a shoot-'em-up where you control a monkey in a spaceship blasting down UFOs. They're all done pretty well. On a personal note, out of the 10 offered, I only struggled to understand the controls and gameplay of one of them, which is pretty good given the brief descriptions of each. While the controls aren't nearly as tight as they are in the original game mode, it would be lofty to expect them to be; their departure in tone and the simple fact they exist outrank any of these concerns. While it would've been fun to be able to play all 50 of the minigames from the original release, this is a pretty solid selection that also adds online ranks for a new mode called Decathlon, which scores your skills in succession. This is also offered for the time trial mode that's based on the main game, solidifying how much the developers added to Banana Blitz for its second go-around — and how delightful and varied the gameplay is.

Visuals in Banana Blitz HD are bright and bubbly. Levels vary in theme and scope, from the easier island levels to the more challenging desert and pirate levels. Each world has its own visuals and feel. The different colors and styles of the levels are nice, but what creates such distinct and interesting visuals are the skyboxes for each world. For example, the Smooth Sherbet world boasts snow-laden evergreens and icy white and blue tracks supported by an amazing aurora borealis background peppered with tiny white snowflakes. This creates a color-infused, fantasy-adjacent winter wonderland for your monkey to soar through. While not every world may have this amount of childlike wonder injected into its aesthetics, they all come pretty close. Likewise, the characters reflect this whimsy; the monkeys are all charming, while the enemies are a fine balance of cute and intimidating. From the soft borders to the bright, bold colors and the portrayal of different worlds, Banana Blitz HD has incredibly consistent visuals that bolster the gameplay's cartoony fun.


Similar to the aesthetics, the music in this iteration of Super Monkey Ball is bursting with enthusiasm. This is clear from the get-go, with the menu sporting jaunty interwoven brass and steel drum melodies with an equally driving rhythm section. In the same way that the world design melds the visuals and feel, so too does the music. One of the best examples of this is the Pirate's Ocean world, which departs from the other levels musically by being more morose and intriguing, but in a fun way — think of Yoko Shimamura's Halloween Town and Neverland world music from Kingdom Hearts. A darker color palette and more intimidating enemies enter the game at this point, and the gameplay becomes more difficult; the music takes the appropriate tact by being a little spooky but fun. It's this attention to the gameplay and aesthetics that makes the music fit so well; while they may not be the most powerful pieces of music on their own, they zero in on the tone of the game and build that feeling within the player.

For what it is, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD knocks it out of the park. From the simplicity, approachability, and variability of the gameplay to the fun aesthetics and music, Banana Blitz HD has a level of quality and self-awareness that many games (especially those for younger audiences) lack nowadays. At the end of it all, this game is a complete joy to play, full stop. Sure, a dedicated analog stick to the camera would be great because it can get a little dizzying at times, and the bosses and hit detection are a little weak, but these issues feel rather nitpicky and hardly detract from the player's desire to play the game — and keep playing the game for extra bonuses. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is exactly what one wants from an arcade game. It's simultaneously pithy and filled with content, fun and challenging, and energetic and thoughtful. Like the little monkey you control, Banana Blitz HD has mastered the art of balance, and it shows.

Score: 9.0/10



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