Who would have thought that putting a monkey in a ball and setting it off across a myriad of topsy-turvy physics-based levels would be so fun? The adventures of AiAi and co have brought plenty of joy to gamers over the years with their mixture of tricky levels and fun mini-games, whilst the original game was the first SEGA title officially published on a Nintendo console – I feel that makes it all the more iconic in itself. Super Monkey Ball has seen plenty of releases since then, but it will always be the first two titles in the series that I’ll remember the most affectionately… man, I loved my Gamecube. It’s also those two titles that have been enhanced and remastered in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, the latest release in the series that allows gamers to re-visit some of their fondest memories with the games.
Does it still manage to hold up as well in 2021, though? Of course, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, but it does come with one caveat that might irk long-time fans of the series.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Given that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is a remastered release, players shouldn’t expect the formula of the game to have changed up at all. The game sees you taking one of the primate protagonists through a selection of challenging levels in a ball, with the player not controlling the monkey’s movement directly but instead tilting the level to shift them around. You’ll collect bananas as you try to lead the ball through an array of tricky platforming challenges that demand precision, with rewards earned for collecting them all and doing so in a timely manner.
With the levels from the first two titles featured here, there’s plenty for players to get through. The levels all imaginative in design too, ensuring the process of tilting the world never grows tiresome as you try to deal with each and every obstacle in your path. Whilst early levels are simple and essentially teach you the ins-and-outs of the game, you’ve got to be inch-perfect in your approach in the more complex later levels. It might sound like it could get frustrating but it’s actually super satisfying – the levels are short in design too, so you’ll never lose too much progress when you inevitably slip up.
“The levels all imaginative in design too, ensuring the process of tilting the world never grows tiresome as you try to deal with each and every obstacle in your path.”
You know how I mentioned there was one caveat that might upset long-time fans of the series? Well, that comes with the game’s physics. With Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania running on a different engine to the original games in this remastered release, some changes have been made to how the game feels to play, specifically with the physics. Now I’ll be honest; despite playing the heck out of the games in my younger years, I didn’t find that the changes felt all that significant. Sure, I couldn’t pull off some of the tricks that I managed back in the day when leaping across levels at speed, but it didn’t make it any less fun to play… I just had to find new ways to succeed. Series purists may find it a bit more off-putting though, especially those who still play the original games now. It’s one of those things really, with it not making the game feel worse to play but potentially bothering those who care the most about the series.
It’s hard to be disappointed with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania as a package though, especially with the wealth of content that it features. Besides the main story mode that’s spread across multiple worlds, players also have the challenge mode which gives an abundance of levels from across both Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2 to play through. It acts as a fun blast to the past, whilst the assists will help players learn the best ways to approach levels or even allow them to skip them completely. This will certainly prove beneficial to younger players, and it was something I took advantage of when showing the game to my seven-year-old nephew.
“Besides the main story mode that’s spread across multiple worlds, players also have the challenge mode which gives an abundance of levels from across both Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2 to play through.”
Then you’ve got the party games, which are an absolutely blast to play – ESPECIALLY with other players. Much like the main game, a lot of these have seen some changes thanks to the new physics, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. I still love beating my buddies in Monkey Football and Monkey Tennis, whilst Monkey Baseball, Monkey Boat, and Monkey Fight are still stupidly addictive. There are twelve party games to play in all so there’s a decent variety on offer, ensuring players will find something that will tick all the right boxes for them. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending more time with these than you do the main game…
There are individual challenges available across both the main levels and the party games which gives players something extra to work towards, with these also unlocking credits in-game. These credits can be spent on different things, including extra game modes and cosmetic items, though my favourite addition were the characters. There are plenty of cool characters to unlock that make cameo appearances from other SEGA franchises, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Jet Set Radio’s Beat, and Yakuza’s Kazuma Kiryu. Not only is it wonderful to play the game as these iconic faces, but they bring with them their own small changes to gameplay; Sonic collects rings instead of bananas for example, with the classic ring-collecting chime playing as he grabs them. It almost made Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania feel like a bona fide Sonic game when I played as him, which just shows how much of a difference these additions make.
“Not only is it wonderful to play the game as these iconic faces, but they bring with them their own small changes to gameplay; Sonic collects rings instead of bananas for example, with the classic ring-collecting chime playing as he grabs them.”
The online leaderboards give players an additional competitive aspect to work toward, whilst modes like Gold Banana, Dark Banana, and the time-trials give players something new to aim for when playing. There’s just so much on offer across the game and it complements the already entertaining gameplay, with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania’s variety and selection of game modes sure to keep players coming back for more for a long, long time, whether that’s when playing solo or with a group of friends.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania Summary
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania offers a robust and varied experience that’s packed full of fun levels to complete and competitive party games to enjoy. I had a really good time re-visiting levels that I played non-stop back in my younger years, whilst beating friends in Monkey Football all over again NEVER stopped being satisfying. With plenty of missions to complete, extras to unlock, and assist options to give a helping hand, there’s enough here to keep players of all ages enjoying themselves for hours on end.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the new physics, which may upset a few long-time fans of the series. It’s something that players will get used to though, and it certainly doesn’t stop Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania from being a heck of a lot of fun to play.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC