29 Sep 2021 4:08 PM +00:00

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania Review – A Strong Return to Form for AiAi and Friends

I’ve got fond memories playing Super Monkey Ball as a kid. Between the original GameCube releases, Touch & Roll, 3D and more, SEGA kept me coming back for more, always finding time for another round of multiplayer. Following 2019’s Banana Blitz HD, developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s now bring us Banana Mania, another remake which recreates the first two entries alongside Deluxe’s additional content. In many ways, it’s a nostalgia homecoming and a welcome return to form.

Jump To

Read More: Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom Switch Review - Something Whiskered This Way Comes

A Faithful Remake

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania - Volcanic Magma world. Gongon Monkey In Red/Clear Ball, rolling towards bananas on tiled path, orange lava falls in background.
click to enlarge
+ 3

Combining three games into one remake, Banana Mania is indisputably a hefty package, recreating all 300 stages from Deluxe. Bringing back a story mode, we witness AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, GonGon, YanYan and Doctor taking on Dr. Bad-Boon, an evil scientist attempting to steals all of Monkey Island’s bananas. Ditching the fully animated cutscenes for a comic-book-esque approach, Banana Mania presents this more like a TV show, though the story has no real effect on gameplay.

Advertisement

Expectedly, Super Monkey Ball’s main gameplay remains fundamentally unchanged in Banana Mania. Our primary objective is guiding an encased monkey through these stages to reach the goal before time runs out, but you don’t control the ball directly. Instead, players tilt the stage in your desired direction, avoiding various obstacles like moving platforms and ramps. Should you fall off the edge or run out of time, you’ll need to restart.

It’s straightforward and if you loved the originals, Banana Mania’s exactly what you’d expect. RGG Studio’s faithfully recreated these stages and thanks to several rebalancing tweaks, hold up better than ever. However, they’re still challenging and if you’re finding it tricky, several accessibility options exist like increased time limits and path guides, or you can spend 2000 points to skip a stage. Points are earned through collectable bananas, while stages awards points dependent on completion speed, alongside first-time clears.

Take Your Pick

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania - Monkey Soccer minigame. AiAi in red/clear ball kicking a football across soccer pitch.
click to enlarge
+ 3

Beyond the campaign, there’s a comprehensive package within Banana Mania, one that’s teething with variety. Ranking Challenge brings a time attack for the main game and a score attack for party games, the main story’s challenge mode gives you special EX stages to complete, while scores are also uploaded via online rankings for high-score chasers. Unlockable special modes also exist, such as a “Reverse Mode” which swaps the start/end points, or “Dark Banana Mode” where you need to avoid rotten bananas.

Advertisement

While I wouldn't call Blitz HD a bad game, Banana Mania’s generally a significant improvement upon its predecessor. There’s plenty of content to keep you occupied, gameplay mechanics feel more refined and honestly, Banana Mania highlights the former's lost potential, thanks to a tight development window.

That’s not all, either. Deluxe’s 12 Party Games are also back with 4-player local multiplayer, bringing us monkey variants on Racing, Fight, Tennis, Billiards, Bowling, Football Soccer, Target and more. While bowling feels trickier to control than before and Target feels harder to judge - thanks to more responsive physics - they’re still just as absurdly fun as before. It’s a shame there’s no online multiplayer but if you can gather a few friends to join in, you’ll have an excellent time.

There’s further extras too, thanks to the Points Shop. Here, you can spend points on unlockable costume choices for the monkeys – which includes various headwear, shirts, shoes and new ball colours – purchasable frames and character reactions for photo mode and, most noticeably, guest characters. While they’re not useable in Party Games, players can experience the main game as Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles “Tails” Prower, Yakuza’s Kazuma Kiryu, or Beat from Jet Set Radio, with further DLC additions planned later on.

Verdict

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania - Jungle Island goal.
click to enlarge
+ 3

I’m confident that most fans will love Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania. Though the challenging levels may be off-putting for some and no online multiplayer is disappointing, there’s a wonderful experience within that improves upon Banana Blitz HD’s flaws. RGG Studio’s done a fine job recreating these classic games into one comprehensive package and considering the lower price (£34.99), Banana Mania comes highly recommended.

4/5

Review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5.