Super Monkey Ball comes back with major flourish

Photo courtesy of Free Use, wiki.

Some ideas are just so weird in concept that one cannot help but adore them when they come to fruition. This is the case with “Super Monkey Ball,” a platforming video game series that began all the way back in 2001 in arcades and on the Nintendo GameCube. 

With the goal of navigating monkeys encased in gachapon balls through obstacle courses in order to reach the end, the series gained a massive cult following for years until it went dormant in 2014 after a string of negatively-received games. Luckily for fans, the series returned in 2019, and this year its comeback was solidified with the October release of “Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania” for current and next-gen consoles. 

With plenty of charm mixed with variety and challenge, “Banana Mania” is a great return to form for the franchise by going back to its roots in the best way possible.

“Banana Mania” is a remaster of the first three games in the series, which means that the original levels that players fell in love with have returned with a new visual flair to them. This extends to the entire game, which hits the right amount of cute without delving into parody. However, these adorable looks do not mean the game is simple; in fact, it is anything but. 

The “Super Monkey Ball” games are deceptively challenging at times, with difficulty spikes being random but not completely unwelcome. There is a “just one more try” mentality that comes with playing the game. The satisfaction that comes with beating a hard level is one of the most satisfying moments to rise in gaming in recent memory.

That said, if difficult stages are not in one’s tastes, the game has ways to bypass these factors. From helper functions that outline the best paths through a course, to slow-motion that helps players realign themselves in crucial moments, to the ability to skip a level altogether, the game maintains its fun factor for several demographics by making itself more accessible for people that just want a casual obstacle course game rather than one they need to dedicate time to in order to perfect.

When one grows tired of rolling through tough landscapes, there’s no need to worry. “Super Monkey Ball” is also famous for the wide variety of minigames each entry in the series has, and “Banana Mania” is no exception. From Monkey Billiards to Monkey Golf to even Monkey Tennis, there are plenty of ways to liven up a party with the “Super Monkey Ball” crew. 

All of these games allow for up to four players, and although there is currently a lack of online multiplayer, that does not take away from the replay value and fun that each of these party games bring into the mix.

“Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania” brings back everything old fans wanted from the premiere batch of games while maintaining a modern level of accessibility for newcomers to the now 20-year-old franchise. With gorgeous graphics, creative level design and a ton of replayable minigames, the game is a great return to form for the franchise while introducing itself to a new generation. 

“Super Monkey Ball” has plenty of momentum now, and gamers should keep an eye out for the series’s future as it keeps rolling along.


5/5 stars