Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania review for Nintendo Switch Sega

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania marks the long-awaited return to form for the wayward marble-rolling franchise on Nintendo Switch. Even if a few missteps and confusing feature omissions keep the game from besting the originals, the sheer convenience and incredible amount of content make Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania the definitive entry point for the series.

For the uninitiated, the Super Monkey Ball series tasks players with tilting a stage in order to roll a monkey (who is encased in a ball) through the stage and into a goal, while also offering a surprisingly strong suite of Mario Party-style multiplayer minigames. Stages start off pretty easy, but before you know it, they evolve into wonderfully complex structures with moving parts, dangerous hazards, tricky bumps, and narrow pathways. The series found its footing through creative stage design and a satisfying control scheme and physics engine that kept the game fun even through repeated failures — which, believe me, there were a lot of. The original games were brutally tough at times, but few feelings in games compare to the sheer joy of figuring out a confusing stage and finishing it for the first time.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania review for Nintendo Switch Sega

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania remakes and redelivers nearly all of the content that appeared in the classic original games, including Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (which in turn was a compilation of the first two games mentioned, but with some extra levels and ways to play). Not quite a 1:1 remake, the game uses a new physics engine, offers exciting new challenges such as Golden Banana Mode, expands upon prior Super Monkey Ball rosters with guest characters (hello Sonic) and character customization, and boasts online leaderboards, which are quite nice to have in a series as speedrun-friendly as Super Monkey Ball.

Unfortunately, Banana Mania does not bring everything over from the originals, and some of its additions feel undercooked or incomplete. You can no longer play challenge mode multiplayer, for example, and “Ultimate Mode” from Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which presented players with a 300-level gauntlet composed of nearly every stage in the game, is nowhere to be found.

It is important that I emphasize how great Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2 were back in the day. Even with this being a less-than-perfect remake, the source material is just so good that the overall experience was truly never in danger. You can still roll through classic stages and play your favorite minigames from when you were younger, and it’s as fun as ever. Plus, there are some cool new features and modes to enjoy.

Modes like Golden Banana Mode, Reverse Mode, and Dark Banana Mode all take fan-favorite stages and add fun new twists that demand completely new approaches. Golden Banana Mode, for example, tasks players with collecting every banana on the map instead of simply crossing the map and breaking the goal tape. Conversely, Dark Banana Mode fills the stage with angry purple bananas and then kills you if you touch one; this mode offered some of the most genuinely challenging Super Monkey Ball stages I have encountered in years. There are a few other fun modes to toy around with, including an optional “jump” that lets you approach every level in the game differently.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania review for Nintendo Switch Sega

Some changes, however, are a bit awkward, throwing the original meticulously crafted difficulty curve into flux. Doing away with lives and minimum-death requirements for accessing challenging extra stages throws the difficulty curve completely out of whack (though it is nice to see the stages more accessible). The lack of challenge mode multiplayer is also a glaring omission. A few stage designs were slightly tweaked in confusing ways and for no apparent reason. The controls occasionally feel a bit too slippery. Tiny imperfections and omissions like these threaten Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania’s ability to hit the same heights as its predecessors, but the sheer convenience of having all of these stages and fun characters available on the go swings the pendulum back in Banana Mania’s favor.

Party games, the other major segment of Super Monkey Ball, are an excellent time as usual, with a couple of exceptions. Minigames such as Monkey Fight, Monkey Soccer, and, of course, Monkey Target have been good for hours and hours of fun in the decades since their original release. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania brings over all 12 party games from the first two games but sadly did not give them the same tender love and care as the main game. Most party games are still an excellent time and feel largely the same as the GameCube originals, while a few, including Monkey Target, have shaky controls and are disappointing downgrades from the GameCube original. Something simply did not click in the remake process, and I hope that these controls can be tweaked in a future patch.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania review

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania marks a return to form for the series, even if I am left hoping that we receive some substantial content updates in the near future to fill in gaps left from the originals. Fans who need an exact recreation of the originals or require challenge mode multiplayer might want to skip this one or wait for a deep discount, but those who just want to play Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 again or the first time should absolutely pick this one up on Switch, especially if you enjoy playing on the go. While there is still a bit of work to do, Super Monkey Ball is back, and it’s a great feeling. I strongly recommend you don’t miss out on this one.

Release Date: October 5, 2021
No. of Players: 1-4 players
Category: Arcade, Party, Platformer
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Game File Size: 3.1 GB

A Nintendo Switch review code for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania was provided by the publisher.

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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

8.5

Pros
  • Excellent momentum-based puzzle platforming. Rolling just feels so good
  • Plenty of excellent party games that will sneakily take over a game session with friends
  • Fun guest characters
  • Wonderful new modes put a twist on classic levels
Cons
  • Some missing content
  • Can't use guest characters in party mode
  • Occasional physics screw-ups
Andrew Rockett
I'm the Reviews Editor here at Nintendo Enthusiast, and I'm a major fan of all consoles and eras. Follow me on Twitter @habitablestorm3 to talk games old and new.

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