AiAi and pals are back, with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble the first all-new release in the series for some time. It brings with it PLENTY of banana-fuelled fun too, with new features such as the spin dash technique and the shift in focus to online multiplayer helping mark a triumphant return for the monkey gang.

Check out some screenshots down below:

If you’re unfamiliar with the Super Monkey Ball series, it sees players take on the role of a myriad of charming monkey characters as they roll around in balls, work their way through a selection of levels full of tricky platforming challenges (there are two-hundred of them this time around), and collect a bunch of bananas along the way as they look to complete each level as quickly as possible. It might sound utterly bizarre and that’s because it is, but it’s also a ridiculously fun experience that feels better than ever in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble.

At its core, a lot of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble will feel familiar to returning players, with levels still small in design but packed with all sorts of challenges to keep players on their toes. You’ll earn bonuses for completing levels as quickly as possible, by collecting all bananas that are scattered around, or by finding the elusive golden banana (which typically takes a lot of skill to grab), whilst there’s a steady difficulty curve in place that’ll throw players into a spin as they deal with more complex platforming challenges and hazards or levels where one wrong move will see you falling into monkey-oblivion. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble might look cute and charming, but believe me, you’ll face a REAL challenge if you hope to complete every objective on offer.

What spices things up this time around is the introduction of the spin dash, which gives players a burst of speed when rolling at momentum. Not only will this allow you to whizz ahead of your rivals in the multiplayer modes (more on that in a bit), but it can also be used creatively to create makeshift shortcuts through the Adventure Mode’s main levels. It has to be charged before use so you can’t freely abuse it to boost through levels non-stop, but those who hit a spin dash at the right moment or at the right place in levels will be the ones that get the quickest completion times… or, more often than not, blast themselves off the level when things mess up. It’s a really cool addition that evolves upon the core gameplay formula in a meaningful and satisfying way, with players able to use the technique to bypass obstacles, zoom through levels, or simply pip a rival to the objective.

“Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble might look cute and charming, but believe me, you’ll face a REAL challenge if you hope to complete every objective on offer.”

The core experience of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble comes in the game’s Adventure Mode, which offers a cute little narrative for main protagonist AiAi and pals to embark on. It all revolves around helping an adventurer named Palette find her father by seeking out the Legendary Banana, and whilst it doesn’t get too complex, it adds some charm to your progression through levels. As mentioned, there are two-hundred levels to play through, so it’ll take a bit of time to clear everything that the game has to offer. They’re all creative and cool in design so you certainly won’t tire of the experience fast, and whilst you won’t find TOO much challenge in simply beating the levels, those who chase all optional objectives are in for a real test of their… uh… Monkey Ball-ing skills.

And if the challenge is a bit much? There are some handy assist features that’ll ensure players won’t get too frustrated, with Rewind allowing you to head back to a certain point of the level without losing progress, Ghost Guide showing you the optimal route to take, and the Route Guide ensuring you’re always going in the right direction. It’s something that’ll definitely appeal to younger players who just want to enjoy the chaotic antics of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t one or two moments where I was tempted to take advantage of them too.

It all comes together to make for an addictive and thrilling experience, with the simplicity of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble’s gameplay loop complementing the frantic nature of its level design. It’s even MORE exciting to play in multiplayer, whether that’s when tackling the Adventure Mode in co-op with up to four-players or when facing off in competitive action for up to sixteen-players in the online Battle Mode.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Battle Mode is a ton of fun, with the robust variety of modes offering players plenty of ways to get stuck into the action. Race is all about competing with others to reach the end goal of a level, Banana Hunt sees players competing to collect the most bananas, Ba-boom sees players bashing each other around as a means to pass a bomb on, Goal Rush sees players competing to roll through goals in order to score points, whilst Robot Smash has players working in teams to defeat patrolling robots, with plenty of diversity found across each mode to cater to different audiences. Personally? I love a good old-fashioned Race (something which is made all the more exciting thanks to the spin dash), but there’s something about the urgency and panic of Ba-boom that also kept me coming back for more.

It is worth noting that Battle Mode is limited to just two-players in split-screen though, which isn’t ideal if you’re hoping to get some pals around for competitive action… it definitely feels like there has been a shift in priority to online play this time around. Luckily, playing online with sixteen-players is a blast, and I’ve been surprised at just how much it has hooked me in. There are plenty of rewards to unlock to keep players coming back for more too – whether that’s with the daily bonus or simply amassing points to grab items. Whilst I’ll admit I’ve never been too worried about customising characters in the Super Monkey Ball series in the past, I do find myself incentivised by the need to unlock everything that’s on offer. Because come on… you want to be the most stylish monkey around when it comes to online competitive play, right?!

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble Review

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble is the best entry the series has seen in some time, with the online multiplayer standing out as the highlight of the experience. That’s not to say that players won’t have a blast in single player though, especially with the two-hundred expertly crafted levels and the introduction of the spin dash that puts a cool little trick up your sleeve. Just be warned: completing all of the challenges will be TOUGH…

There’s no doubting that there has been a shift in focus to online multiplayer in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble, but with a selection of frantic and exciting game modes to play through, support for sixteen-players, and a solid sense of progression that sees players unlocking plenty of new items, it’s something I can see myself coming back to time and time again.

Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)