It’s hard to believe that we’ve gone several years without a new Super Monkey Ball game. As I would probably tell Sega, “You’re sitting on a gold mine, Trebek!” (I’m a fan of the Celebrity Jeopardy skits on Saturday Night Live, what can I say?) But it appears someone on the team finally “gets it,” and released Banana Blitz in HD format for consoles. I can’t say it’s the most ideal choice — Super Monkey Ball Deluxe would’ve been a better fit, methinks — but it’s something worth rolling with.
As you might guess, the game is all about rolling monkeys inside clear spheres from start to finish, across a myriad of mazes. You’ve got a time limit to deal with, and along the way, there are a number of bananas to collect. As you progress through the game, stages become tougher to navigate, with drop-offs, obstacles and much more to contend with.
There are also boss battles, which is a bit odd considering your character isn’t built for offense-based purposes. But they’re actually rather intuitive, and an interesting staple in an otherwise fast-moving experience.
The game does say HD, but I really didn’t see too much of a difference between the new version and the classic edition of the game. The graphics are still charming, mind you, and the level designs are as diabolical as ever later on. But this isn’t really a full-blown HD treatment as promised. More like a port with a few slight improvements. Still, it runs beautifully, and even features that quirky camera tilt whenever you turn. So it’s vintage Monkey Ball, through and through.
Still, I would’ve liked a more competitive front with Monkey Ball. Something like players competing against one another online to get to the goal quicker. I know some speed-runners that would’ve truly loved that.
There are some multiplayer with the ten mini-games included from the Wii version, but it’s local only. It does support four players, at the very least, and can be fun at parties. But it’s not quite the same. Still, beats nothing.
As for the gameplay, this sort of game begs for a trackball controller to get the complete utter movement out of your Monkey Ball. But Sega still suffices with the control scheme as it stands, with solid movement and just the right amount of speed to get you through a stage — or send you rolling off of it, if you’re not too careful.
So, to recap, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is successful when it comes to revitalizing the series for a new generation of players to enjoy. It has the lovely, upbeat soundtrack; the fun visuals; and the entertaining gameplay to suffice. It also has a solid single player campaign, along with a few multiplayer games that are enjoyable for a little while. And yet, I can’t help but think more could’ve been included to really re-introduce the series in style. Again, perhaps a full-blown sequel can do that.
For now, if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll like what Banana Blitz has to offer. Just don’t expect a barrel full of monkeys when it comes to new stuff.
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