The following software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.
If there is one thing I like about remasters, it is the fact that I can see old IP not able to be saved by the Xbox Backwards Compatibility program to see the light of day once again. And right now one of those happens to be a SEGA IP that is beloved by many that still remember it—Super Monkey Ball! Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios and published by SEGA, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania combines the many levels and party modes of the first two SMB titles as well as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe on the PlayStation 2.
Now I think I may have played a Super Monkey Ball game once or twice. Or maybe they were the many fever dreams I have had as a kid. Either way, I went into this game as a total newbie, only knowing the bare minimum: that I have to get the monkey-in-a-ball to the end of the level. And though it might sound simple, it can get fairly complex and almost downright frustrating. But its also a game that I think remasters the old SMB games for a new audience spendidly. Read on if you want to see why AiAi, MeeMee, YanYan, GonGon, Baby, and Doctor are worth meeting.
Monkey Rolls Up, Monkey Falls Out!
Like I mentioned prior, Super Monkey Ball is about getting our cast of (adorably named) monkeys to the end of each level while also collecting bananas that are scattered all over the map. Sounds simple enough, but slowly going through a level to pick up bananas is not an option—you are timed in each level! Getting as many bananas as you can while also getting to the goal can quickly become a game of screaming like a monkey at your television set.
Moving your monkey around is simple enough. Remember those ball in a maze toys you would sometimes get from a Happy Meal? Think of the game like that, but your ball has many, many hazards to get through as well as many, many ways to get to your goal. The player is essentially shifting the stage to get our monkey friends where you want them to go. There is quite a learning curve to this and I can tell you from a couple hours of retrying some stages, it can be a tough game, but all my fails were on me and I feel that the game offers enough tools to help get players through stages.
For example, I had a really touch time getting through a stage that involved some serious verticality. For every couple of ‘fall outs’ I had, the game would suggest turning on the ‘Helper’ function—a tool that grants the player the ability to slow down time, doubles the stage’s timer, and points the player in the direction of the goal. Honestly, this never really helped me as many of my gaffes were not because of timing but rather kneejerk reactions that would fling me off the map. Super Monkey Ball certainly relies on timing for its stage hazards, but I found that trial and error always worked best. Besides, if you truly cannot finish a stage, the game has the option to mark it as “cleared” in exchange for ‘points’, the game’s currency it rewards the players with for stage and challenge completion. The game never suggests that the player use it, but the fact that its there saved whatever hair is left on my scalp.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania offers much more than just the standard story mode. There are plenty of challenge missions players can tackle and many party modes you can play locally with up to three other players. Racing, tennis, golf, bowling—honestly these were my favourite part of the game and a great way to unwind. And anything you complete rewards you with plenty of points that you can use to drip out the main monkey cast. You can even purchase other characters to use, the likes of which involve Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza games, Beat from Jet Set Radio, everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog Sonic, and many more. They will be delegated to only the main game levels however, which is a bit of a shame.
There are also more modes you can purchase with points, such as the fully restored SMB 1, 2, and DX levels which I highly recommend grabbing. The Dark Banana mode is rage inducing, but I also highly recommend that. If those are not your thing, you can just replay levels to try and ‘Perfect!’ them, or beat the high scores of other players on a global leaderboard.
Accessibility and Locale Options
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania offers language support in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish (although ultimately reading is not required to progress through the game). Camera settings are available, allowing players to invert movement on the X or Y axis, change sensitivity, or turn camera controls off entirely like the original games. Stage tilts can be inverted as well. Players can change the game’s music to match the original titles (provided the DLC was purchased) here and adjust music, voice, and sound levels.
Closing the Monkey Barrel
Banana Mania offers so many playable modes and levels that I was instantly in love. For its initial asking price, the game is a steal. Although ultimately how this game appeals to someone will vary on whether or not the gameplay clicks with them. It can be fun, and there are tools to help you get through the toughest parts of the game, but if you do not like monkey maze pinball this game can be a hard sell. Check out some streams and see if it is for you; because if it is, this collection is going to be your dream game.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania$39.99/$49.99
- Bright visuals with SEGA's iconic art style and sense welcome both new players and old SEGA fans.
- Plenty of modes and levels to choose from, with lots of replayability.
- Tight controls and assistance options make progression more reasonable.
- The core gameplay of tilting a ball across courses can be frustrating for some.