Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Medium: Digital/Cartridge/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: No

I?ve got to hand it to Sega: they seem to have taken the “HD” part of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD seriously, and made a game that really does look like it belongs on modern-gen systems. Maybe I?ve been made cynical by HD collections and remasters that don?t look much improved from their original versions, but it?s nice to see a game get the HD treatment and for once have the phrase mean something.

This is particularly important when we?re talking about a game that originally came out on the Wii. Nothing against that system, but it wasn?t exactly a graphics powerhouse. So to see that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is one of the brightest, shiniest, prettiest games I?ve come across in awhile is a very pleasant surprise. The game is bursting with life in every screen, particularly in the main campaign mode, and it gives Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD a fun, happy-go-lucky vibe.

It?s ironic, then, that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD isn?t actually all that fun. Simply put: it?s got brutal controls, and the difficulty curve is quite steep. Add those two things together, and you can see why you?re more likely to be tossing your controller in frustration than you are to be bopping along to the upbeat soundtrack.

You?d think that this wouldn?t be the case, that even though some critics of the original game lamented the game?s challenging controls, the move from the Wii and its motion controls to a proper controller would make moving your monkey around a little easier. But this isn?t the case at all. For some reason, even though you have two thumbsticks at your disposal, the game only allows you to use one. In a 3D world, where you regularly have to make sharp turns and it would be very useful to see where you want to go, you can see why this would be a huge pain. It?s very difficult to roll with any kind of precision — even though there are plenty of levels that demand just that. Couple that with a very limited amount of lives, and suddenly the smiling monkey faces seem more taunting than anything else.

There are also 10 mini-games, whittled down from the 50 that were found on the Wii version of the game. While I?ll admit I didn?t get the full experience, since they?re all meant to be party games and I played them solo. Nonetheless, none of them blew me away. The rolling games suffer from the same issues as the main game. The Super Monkey Ball-themed shmup/space shooter is dull. I?m still not sure why anyone would want to take part in hurdles, but that?s here too. Basically, the mini-games are here if you want them, but I don?t know why you would.

I get why you might want Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD as a whole, though. It?ll hit the right nostalgia buttons for some people, and the bright colours are sure to attract others. Unless they have a high tolerance for iffy controls and a steep learning curve, however, they?ll soon realize that looks are very deceiving.

Sega provided us with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B