Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Gamescom 2019 Preview – Jumping Sucks

Sep 2, 2019
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We all love Super Monkey Ball. It's just a fact. Whether you see the series as an old Gamecube tech demo or Sega's best puzzle action game, it's hard to deny the allure of a few monkeys with cute faces rolling around in twee balls. Super Monkey Ball is just a joyous franchise. But then, it launched on the Wii, and ever since, the reputation of the franchise hasn't been the same. A bit strange, then, that the only game getting ported to modern consoles in HD is the maligned Wii game.

Well, it's not that unusual if you compare Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 on the Gamecube, to Banana Blitz on the Wii. Banana Blitz is on a console with more horsepower, offers a deeper campaign offering, and the stages are actually decorated and detailed, not simply floating obstacle courses in another dimension. With Banana Blitz, Sega attempted to flesh out the universe of Super Monkey Ball. And in doing so, somewhat lost what made the series so good. But now we can try and give this game another shot, after all, without the motion controls plaguing the original, we can enjoy some proper Monkey Ball challenge, right?

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For the most part, yes. When playing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, it felt like this game was always meant to be played with a traditional controller. Which, frankly, may have always been the case. It felt just as I remember the earlier Monkey Ball games playing, with similar physics and the ball rolling in just the right way, with just the right amount of acceleration and momentum. These smaller aspects are pretty important and give Monkey Ball it's weighty, fluid feel.

And, as mentioned, this is where the series started looking like more than a tech demo, with detailed stages to play on and new embellishments to make the world feel a little more alive. It's certainly more aesthetically pleasing than any of the earlier games on the Gamecube, and for that reason alone, it makes sense to give this game a new lease of life on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

But not all is perfect in the world of Monkey Ball. An aspect many players may have forgotten is that this game introduces jumping mechanics and bosses. I don't want to hate on either of them, but they don't feel cohesive with a classic Monkey Ball style game. Leaving the ground used to be something you only did when pulling off a trick shot, and now, it's a button and can lead you off the track in a bad way if abused. That being said, the tracks are certainly more conservatively designed in this game, with more barriers to prevent your death, probably because they were adapted to save people with fickle motion controllers.

The bosses were particularly annoying. Not too difficult, not too complicated, just boring to fight against, as a giant scientist monkey flew around an arena, shooting bullets at me that I jumped on to return. Just not that fun, honestly. Certainly the lowest point in the Gamescom 2019 demo for me, which is a shame, because I was quite enjoying the simple stages I was playing through.

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But there are also minigames, another reminder that this was a game built for an extremely social console. There's a whole bunch of them to play, and as an added bonus, it's impossible to say no. Will you spend hours with friends on Super Monkey Ball minigame parties? Probably not, but it'll be worth pulling out for an hour or so with drinks or younger children.

While this certainly isn't the Super Monkey Ball game I would've had ported into the modern era, it's still an authentic Super Monkey Ball game, and as a fan of the series, I'm looking forward to playing more. I just hope the rest of the bosses aren't quite so rubbish.

Banana Blitz HD is due to release on October 29th for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

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