Will we ever get tired of rolling monkeys around in balls? Not if our time with Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is anything to go by.
Essentially a remake of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania smooshes together the content of the original Super Monkey Ball and its sequel along with plenty of additional extras. That means it has a wealth of content overall, though much of it will feel familiar to those who have already invested considerable time in the series.
Is that familiarity likely to be a problem? Probably not. The act of manoeuvring your monkey-inhabited ball though stages in order to reach a goal never really gets old or repetitive thanks to the sheer insanity of it all, while the stages themselves each offer their own challenge. One minute you might be simply guiding your monkey down a slope; the next, trying to roll them up a spiral bridge that’s rotating at a considerable speed. It may not sound like much, but thanks to physics and a fairly strict time limit, it’s rather tricky indeed.
The main attraction for many here will be story mode, ripped straight out of Super Monkey Ball 2. It challenges you to make your way through 10 worlds, each with 10 stages for you to overcome. And of course, each new world is typically more troublesome than the last and has its own theme. Early stages will lull you into a false sense of security, being so simple that even a simian could complete them with their eyes closed. Soon enough, though, they get so fiendish you might find yourself curing at the screen.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a game where you’ll be hitting that retry button time and time again. It’s challenging, yet also very, very addictive. There is the occasional stage that feels more than challenging though, instead feeling more like a slap in the face. Any stage that involves you being thrown into the air is pretty much hampered by the game’s camera, that utterly fails to give you a good idea of where you’re going to land. There are other instances of the camera getting in your way, too, but they’re much less egregious.
If any stage does particularly give you trouble, however, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a built-in helper to reduce your frustrations. Turn it on and you’ll find that it doubles the time you have to complete any given stage, and also allows you to slow down time. So, you’ll still need to complete the goal, but under less struct circumstances. You’re not really penalised much for using the helper in story mode either – it pretty much just prevents you from completing certain coin-awarding challenges associated with each stage.
Things are a different kettle of fish in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania‘s slew of challenge modes. Both Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2 challenge modes are available, each throwing players into a curated selection of stages depending on the difficulty chosen. The higher the difficulty, the more stages need to be completed in one go. They’re trickier, too. But if the helper is used, players will be locked out from tackling EX stages. Thankfully players can single out the stages that are giving them trouble in practice mode, and play them over and over again until they have mastered them.
Other meaningful single-player content in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania needs to be unlocked. You’ll earn coins throughout your time with the game, and by visiting the shop you can purchase access to a whole range of extras. Additional characters can be unlocked for use in story and challenge modes, for example, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Kazuma Kiryu. Customisation items can also be unlocked for the game’s traditional simian ensemble. But most importantly, a range of additional modes are available, offering new stages for you to roll around. Save up enough coins, and you can even unlock the ability to jump.
Unlockable game modes include Golden Banana, offering 10 special stages where you’re tasked with collecting all of the bananas. Achieve your goal and you’ll unlock Golden AiAi for use in the main game. Dark Banana, on the other hand, presents 10 stages for you to complete where you need to avoid the glowing rotten bananas. Then there’s Reverse, which presents 10 stages with their start points and goals switch around. Add in Original Stage which offers an additional 23 stages from Super Monkey Ball and its sequel with their original difficulty, and DX which offers a further 43 stages from Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, and you have more Monkey Ball action than you could ever ask for.
The icing on the monkey-shaped cake is the inclusion of the 12 party games from Super Monkey Ball 2. Everything from Monkey Race to Monkey Dogfight is here, unlocked right from the off. Allowing up to four players to get in on the act, there’s hours of comical party-centric fun to be had, though the games do admittedly vary in quality. Our favourites are Monkey Bowling and Monkey Target, though the latter does take some getting used to. It’s just a shame that there’s no option to play these party games online, as there they would truly shine.
We’ve tried Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania on both PS5 and PS4 Pro, and perhaps what’s most disappointing is that there’s hardly anything between them. There’s no obvious difference in graphical quality, nor are there any notable DualSense features. What some will appreciate, however, whether they’re playing on PS4 or PS5, is that there’s support for gyro controls. It’s not for us, but if you’d rather move your monkey ball by tilting your controller rather than moving your left analogue stick, you’ll be happy.
It’s a shame that the camera works against you at times, and pretty much all of the content here may be recycled from previous games, but that doesn’t stop Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania from being outrageously entertaining. Also, while the game’s premise is simple, there’s a great level of challenge here that will keep players returning time and time again to master all of the stages on offer. Throw in the party games that each offer their own unique take on Monkey Ball action, and you have a package that’s not to be missed by those who simply like to have fun.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Review – GameSpew’s Score