We were super excited to see a new Super Monkey Ball title. Even one that is a rehash of the 2006 Wii game. Sega have made an odd choice by not remastering one of the beloved originals but Banana Blitz is a decent game in its own right. The biggest issue is the lack of motion controls that made the original Wii version so different. A game based on precision and twitch controls felt so right with a Wiimote. We check out the Switch version.
For anyone not familiar with the series Super Monkey Ball is about monkeys in balls rolling from one end of a level to another. Sounds simple but in true arcade spirit the way is blocked with various ramps, enemies and cliff edges. One mistake and you are sent back to the beginning to try again. Your overall score is made up of how quickly you complete the stage and the amount of bananas you collect along the way.
Super Monkey Banana Blitz is made up of eight worlds each with eight levels. An end of world boss battle stands between you and the next world. There is variety in the levels, some are straightforward platforming action and some require rage inducing precision control. The difficulty ramps up after the first few worlds and more complex obstacles appear. Be prepared to retry some levels many times as you work out each section.
Another feature added to the original Banana Blitz was the ability to jump. Being able to jump mixes up the gameplay and allows you to tackle each level in multiple ways. During our playthrough we found the controls responsive although there were a few times the ball acted erratically. It is fun flying at full speed and leaping far across the level, you can produce some exciting death defying leaps in certain sections.
In addition to the main game there are ten mini games designed to test your skills. In the original title there were 50 mini games that made good use of motion controls. The main appeal of Super Monkey Ball is its multiplayer. You and your friends enjoying the simple mechanics trying to beat each others score. So seeing so few mini games is disappointing.
A new feature is the decathlon mode. You compete in all ten mini games one after the other in true Olympic fashion. It is a distraction from the main game and adds some multiplayer competition but the truth is most of the mini games are average. There are a couple of gems in the form of a shmup and a see-saw game but there is nothing here that will keep you coming back.
Visually Super Monkey Ball is a feast for the eyes. Bright, bold graphics with distinctive themed worlds. The worlds are lush and vibrant with excellent animation. The signature Sega style is splashed throughout the game, everything from the menus to the boss battles. Character design is basic but fits with the game and Sonic can be being unlocked by finishing the main levels.
Each monkey has their own little personality shown through squeaks and lamenting. But the overall sound is weak given the boldness of the graphics. This can be forgiven though, as the game is all about arcade action and the music will always be secondary. There is no need to be creating suspense or atmosphere here. You will find most of the themes forgettable but they do their job.
The main issue we have with Banana Blitz is its longevity. Once you master the main game and feel satisfied with your scores in the mini games there is nothing else. The multiplayer is weak and you are better off getting your mates around your old GameCube and playing a better version. This does feel like a missed opportunity for Sega to revive a loved franchise. The lack of content does question the price on release.
If you love Super Monkey Ball there is a lot to enjoy with this remaster. For anyone who has never played a Monkey Ball game this is a good introduction to the series. Those with a passing interest will not find much here sadly. A decent title that is polished but lacking game modes. Hopefully Sega release some DLC at a reasonable price. It is great to see Monkey Ball back lets just hope it leads to a brand new game soon.