These monkeys have a problem. Well, a succession of problems, really, but the main one is that they've been trapped inside giant spheres for no reason. And they're beloved, these monkeys: since the GameCube days, Super Monkey Ball has been (perhaps bafflingly) popular, with increasingly diminishing returns across the likes of Super Monkey Ball Adventure through to the recent Banana Blitz HD.
Here, though, you've got a functional remake of PS2 and Xbox's Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, itself a 2005 compilation of the original game and its sequel. Presentation has been overhauled, but the core ball-rolling simian action seems to have been left largely untouched. If you've never played Monkey Ball before, it's a bit like those old wooden marble mazes where you tilt the play area to roll the ball, except this time there's a little monkey fella.
The removal of any kind of stakes is an interesting choice, here; the lives system has been stripped out in favour of a more straightforward (and contemporary) reliance on repetition. Unfortunately, with no fail state or consistently skilled play necessary, the game starts to feel monotonous rather quickly. And that's not some "git gud" cretinousness: if there's nothing to strive for, we don't see that there's much point in persevering.
Thankfully there are copious unlockables, from secret characters (including Sonic, Tails, and, erm, Kazama Kiryu) to more skins and the usual mini-games. Unfortunately, the latter feel unpolished to the point of unfinished at times and we found ourselves wondering why they bothered.
Still, it all looks gorgeous, moves smoothly, and sounds exuberant as ever. We'd say that for Monkey Ball fanatics this is a bit of a must, but then said fanatics are the ones who will notice the cracks more than anyone else. So we're not sure, ultimately, who this is for. Newcomers may find themselves wondering what all the fuss is about.