This week’s release of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC feels like an ultimate edition of all things Super Monkey Ball. It is worth picking up? We’ve certainly been having a lot of fun with it.
The Super Monkey Ball franchise is 20 years old this year, and what started as a colorful new take on the classic that is Marble Madness has since defined the genre all by itself, with tons of (re)releases across a multitude of platforms over the years. It’s a series that’s keen on reintroducing older titles to new audiences, and although Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania sounds like a brand new entry it’s actually a compilation of sorts.
What you get here is a remake of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which first launched on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox back in 2005. That game contained all of the levels from the original Super Monkey Ball (and its sequel) in addition to new content, so what you’re looking at is over 300 levels of ball rolling action that sees you moving about colorful levels with your little monkeys that are trapped inside transparent balls (for reasons beyond our understanding).
Unlike games such as Marble Madness, which just like Monkey Ball originated in the arcades, you get unlimited retries to complete a level. This takes away much of the nailbiting intensity that came with Marble Madness (where being down to your last marble really meant that stress levels were rising), but exchanges it for a much larger fun factor. It can wear off after a while because many of the 300+ levels start looking alike when you play long enough, but there’s a big “pick up and play” appeal to Super Monkey Ball and it’s alive and well for Banana Mania.
Story mode is a good way to prevent monotony from setting in too quickly thanks to a fun story featuring a fun and colorful cast led by AiAi as they take on Dr. Bad-Boon, who’s stolen a whole bunch of your bananas. Other gameplay modes can be found by playing the dozen or so minigames, though most of these are rather formulaic takes on familiar games like bowling, baseball and soccer. They’re fun distractions, but Super Monkey Ball could use a few minigames with Mario Party-like quality levels.
Just in case that having hundreds of levels and a bunch of minigames wasn’t enough content, SEGA has also added a large roster of collectibles to the game, which includes Sonic and Tails in a crossover appearance. But while its large amount of content is a major part of the appeal of this release, it’s worth pointing out that nearly all of it is stuff that Super Monkey Ball fans have seen before.
So while this is a brilliant time to jump in for newcomers who’ve always wanted to play these games, longtime fans will mostly relish the chance to play these levels again on a modern console system. Doing so also means benefitting from an additional layer of polish, which results in the best looking and smoothest Super Monkey Ball experience yet. The original games have become timeless classics, and having a new way to play them is a win in our book – just don’t expect anything new or innovative.