Flashback Review – Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is back and this high definition Nintendo Wii remaster has rolled onto current generation consoles. But does this classic revival reach its goal or does it fall off the track?

Monkey Ball was first released back in Japanese arcades in 2001. It was not long until Super Monkey Ball, its sequels and ports were released on consoles and handheld devices, N-Gage anyone? These games and the Xbox/PS2 deluxe editions all received positive reviews which focused on the easy to pick up and play gameplay and addicting mini games that could keep players, families and friends engaged for hours. A few years later in 2006, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz series hit the Nintendo Wii exclusively.


The Super Monkey Ball series, while similar to the classic Marble Madness, has the player directing a ball with a Monkey inside to the goal while avoiding obstacles, enemies and jumping gaps all while the time limit ticks down. It may seem simple but the trick to the series is that the player is not controlling the ball itself but instead tilts and moves the board/track which in turn controls speed and the balls turning circle. It is easy to pick up but can be difficult to master the later levels.

While moving towards each goal, players can collect bananas that give extra lives and points on completion of the level. I found this as a token objective, as if you run out of lives you can continue anytime on the same level. Although, players receive medallions for completing levels with all bananas and not losing lives.


The campaign is 100 levels in length; each split into 10 stages, with each of these stages having a particular theme and boss battle at the end. There is a brief story where Captain Crabuchin has stolen the Golden Banana Bunch and AiAi (the main character) and his friends must recover the scattered pieces of it but it’s more just there to give the player an objective.

Most levels/tracks are very linear with getting to the goal. They start off very easy, with barriers to stop you falling off, small jumps and minimal obstacles. As you progress, turns become tighter, tracks steeper, obstacles, enemies are plentiful and endless drops are harder to jump. As the game progresses players will lose lives and the gameplay can become more trial and error over skill. Although once you have mastered the track, you can go back and speed run it for your best time or collect all the bananas scatted around. Grabbing all bananas also get harder, as it can require you to make timed jumps and go off the tracks normal run.


While the traditional levels/tracks have that great arcade feel, you can tell that this game is a port from the Wii, which required motion controls. The Monkey Ball movement is now much easier for those finer moments but it does have a few hiccups. Controls are simplified, as players only use the left analogue stick to move and X button to jump. The levels/tracks have also has minor changes to them, making is slightly harder when compared to the much easier Wii version. Later levels appear to have had rails removed or enemies added, which does make it more of a challenge or frustration, depending on the type of player you are.

One odd thing left out of the HD revival is that there is no option to control the camera, not even with right analogue stick and this can cause frustration, especially when trying to navigate thin areas of tracks and collecting those bananas. It can also be a problem when speeding through the ‘Time Trial’ mode or fighting a boss, as you can easily overshoot your mark and have the Monkey Ball facing the wrong way. This causes the player to backward map the controls to get out of these situations but most of the time it ended up with me falling off the map. It is a minor complaint as it is not game breaking and players will get used to not having any control over the camera.


For the campaign, it is the boss fights that create the most frustration. Before each boss fight, the player is introduced to their challenger and the hit-spot to ram or jump on to damage the boss. The issue for many bosses is there is too much trial and error gameplay on how to actually strike the hit-spot. There were a couple of bosses that had me scratching my head to work out what to do. The jump in difficulty here can be extreme and can stop younger gamers in their tracks.


Once you have completed the campaign there is a few other modes but sadly they are not as compelling as the past games. The mini games are a huge reason that people purchase the series and the original Banana Blitz had 50 of them. It is very disappointing that Banana Blitz HD only has 10 and many of the favourites are missing. Monkey Race, Tennis, Bowling, Baseball and Billiards are all gone. Yes, a lot of these did use motion controls but many of these were included on the Xbox/PS2 deluxe edition. While there are some ok mini games like Monkey Snowboarding, there are a number of poor mini games that will last one to two plays before never coming back to them, I’m looking at you Monkey Hovercraft and Monkey Target. Even with 3 friends, we played each game once and unlike the original game, we had no desire to go back and play them again.

The original Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was a title that I played with friends and family. It had five times the mini games that provided something for everyone. Now with my own family I was looking forward to some family banter but sadly it created more frustration than fun. There was a time where the mini games were the largest appeal for the series and kept families and friends coming back, sadly this is not the case for Banana Blitz HD.


Other modes included in the package is the mention Timed Trials and Decathlon. Decathlon has the player complete in the 10 mini games and gives the player an overall score and scores pop up on the online leader boards. Outside the main game, there is sadly not much to do. It is great to see Sonic The Hedgehog unlocked after completing the original 8 campaign stages. The final stages are Sonic themed and have him zipping around collection rings instead of bananas, which is a neat idea. It is a pity there are not more ideas like this and you have play through the majority of the game just to get to its best part.


The graphics have ported well to the Xbox One X with the Utility engine having bright vibrant colours. While it will not set the world on fire, it does look good for a game nearly 14 years old. The music is catchy and fits the game well. Each Stage having their own themes and do not overstay their welcome.

Overall Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD does not have enough depth to revive the series. While the campaign does provide some high points and keeps the addicting gameplay, it is let down by its short length, a camera that at times has a mind of its own and those out of place boss battles. Sadly, the extra modes do not add to overall package. If you are into getting your name on leaderboards and pushing for the top spot, go for it but the lack of good mini games is disheartening. If you’re a fan of the series, I suggest waiting for a sale and dusting off the Super Monkey Ball Deluxe Edition on the original Xbox.

Final Verdict:

+ Monkeyball nostalgia

+ Campaign is addictive

+ Sonic Unlockable container

– Short length

– Stripped out all the good mini games

– Silly boss battles

Score: 5/10

Pottsy for One More Game

Code was originally provided for this review. One More Games thoughts are ours and ours alone.

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