“Fall Out!” the announcer says as my monkey screams, hurtling towards the ground at a startlingly fast pace. Seconds later, the poor trapped primate is brought back to the beginning of the stage as the same announcer, who I can only assume is the cruel God of this floating road, tells the monkey to prepare itself once again.
At his command, I tilt the stage, forcing the monkey down the dangerous path, all while sickeningly jolly music plays in the background. These monkeys are stuck in a purgatory of collecting bananas and rolling in balls with no air holes, all while I’m complicit in their misery. It’s only fitting that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD released just before Halloween, as it’s one of the most disturbing horror titles I’ve played.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a remaster of the original Wii game. The Wii title required you to hold a Wiimote steady and tilt the controller to make the stages move. This new version offers a variety of control methods to send monkeys to their doom, but most importantly you can use a good old-fashioned controller to tilt the stage, instead of inaccurate gyro controls.
Not that this will make your playthrough any less difficult. Banana Blitz is easier than some of its predecessors—I was quickly killing AiAi and the others in World 2 of Super Monkey Ball 2 while it took until World 4 before the monkey genocide began in this title. Eventually, though, Banana Blitz doesn’t throw any punches and the Monkey Ball God will throw everything at their disposal to force you to give up and despair. Impossibly small platforms, balancing acts, and more are required of you and your trapped monkey. In time, you’ll get used to the screams of your primate as you failed to save them yet again.
However, these monkeys are offered one tiny way to change their fate and take agency on the world around them. Banana Blitz offers up a new mechanic in the ability to jump. The physics of a monkey jumping in a ball don’t really make sense, but neither does a ball quickly speeding up to 281 km/s. Jumps can save a monkey from falling into a put or getting tripped up by a step, but a skittish monkey jumping at the wrong time can lead them to another untimely demise.
Regardless, a monkey cannot stick to the cold comfort of the ground in Banana Blitz. Boss battles will test your timing and ability to think under pressure, as these foes will do everything they can to stop your journey to save the golden bananas. Their motivations to stop you are never fully explained. They may be minions of the antagonist, a pirate by the name of Captain Crabuchin, or maybe not. After all, all of us are puppets playing to the tune of the announcer God, mocking us all with their commands and warnings that time is running out.
Boss battles are, fittingly, the most difficult part of Banana Blitz. They show you the true futility of your struggle, as you try to get your monkey to jump and hit weak points while they dodge powerful and deadly attacks. As you try to get the rolling ball to land just right on a weak point that is just slightly too awkward to hit, you’ll be rewarded with another overly happy “Fall Out!” as you watch a counterattack knock your monkey away as if it was balled up piece of paper.
Eventually, Banana Blitz HD will break your spirit. No longer will you earn the Champion medal, which is received by not hurtling your monkey into oblivion too many times and saving the use of a continue. You’ll eventually either give up, likely to the delight of the cruel Monkey Ball God, or push through, monkey creams haunting your dreams as you work through 100 levels of increasingly dangerous stages.
But if you manage to persevere, what is your reward? Well, you get the satisfaction of beating a difficult, skill-based video game. You don’t get to save those monkeys from the purgatory they reside in. They will get that golden banana back, though, a small comfort in the strange world of Monkey Ball.
In addition to the story mode are 10 mini-games multiple players can play for fun and glory. If the story mode is purgatory, this is straight-up hell. Mini-games don’t control all that well or are just boring. Why are the monkeys fighting one another anyway? It’s not worth rounding up an accomplice to your monkey abuse for these mini-games.
If you can stomach the existential dread that is sending a monkey to its death, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a pretty good game. In axing the motion controls, this HD remake is one of the better Monkey Ball titles, disappointing mini-games aside. It’s also the only one on modern consoles, making Banana Blitz the most approachable way to suffer and cause suffering to adorable monkeys.