Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania was always a winning proposition to me. Bringing the original three games together, polishing them up with HD graphics, super smooth frame rates, and effects sounded like a great move. Sega has only improved upon the offer since with the return of party games and the addition of various guest characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Kiryu from Yakuza, and Hello Kitty. Simply put, this game looks fun as heck, and after short sessions with an early version of the game, we can confirm it looks like Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is going to feel fun too.
Go, monkey, go!
I got to play around with a short session of levels in the game, so I jumped into the Under the Ocean series from Super Monkey Ball 2. As you can see above, the levels quite cleaned up and polished from their original counterparts and I found they played well too. The game is smooth as silk and very simplistic in its operation. Chiefly, you simply use one stick to tilt the obstacle courses around your character and roll them about the level and the other stick to rotate the camera around you. The goal is to try to collect as many bananas as you can and roll your way to the goal marker before time runs out.
There are both conveniences and challenges to Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania’s new approach to levels that I quite enjoyed in my short time with it. Lives are gone, so you can try or fail as much as you want. Additionally, if you lose at a level enough it will offer you the option to play with a time slowing Assist Mode function and you can even mark a level done and move on if you find it too tough. That said, you miss out on quite a few bonuses if you take the help, such as unlocking EX Challenge levels. I noticed there are far more bananas and you can try to collect all of them to get a perfect on the stage if you want, but you don’t have to. Making the goal before the time runs out is the priority. Still, there are online leaderboards, so flexing your control of the Monkey Ball and the board to try to get as many bananas as you can in as short an amount of time as possible will likely be a point of pride for a lot of players looking to challenge themselves and others.
I also have to say, the presentation here is on point. The updated levels look wonderful and clean, the control feels smooth as silk, and the effects when you’re moving fast are exhilarating (and sometimes anxiety inducing when you’re trying to stay on a tight track!). Add to this an updated soundtrack that’s catchy from the start screen’s ska-heavy main theme to the fun electronica of each world of levels and Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is just looking, feeling, and sounding altogether delightful in its core gameplay.
One of the very cool returning features in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is party games and we got to play around with a few of them. Monkey Bowling is still a great go-to, having you roll your Monkey Ball down the lane to hit as many pins as possible in ten frames. It’s pretty simple to control here too. You just position your character on the lane start and try to hit the angle on a swinging directional line when it hits the right spot. Additionally, though, you can use the shoulder buttons to put some spin on your ball and curve it for a more technical bowling shot. It adds a bit of skill and finesse to trying to get that perfect 300 game.
Monkey Target is also a fantastic return of a classic. You go down a large slope to a jump, catch some big air, and then glide your way over a wide sea to try to land on targets sitting far out in the water. There are different point values that are increasingly difficult to hit based on how much they are and you only get three tries. It’s very much a fun risk vs. reward on spending a turn trying to get one of those big scores without falling in the water and getting nothing. There are also mid-air bonuses you can glide through for increased points like floating bananas and stars that give you score multipliers.
There are a bunch of other Monkey Ball party games as well, including Monkey Tennis, Monkey Billiards, and Monkey Racing. They can be played with up to four other players locally at this time. There are also online leaderboards and each of the games is seeming like quite a diversion from the main game so far.
Ready to monkey around
I was highly impressed with what I saw in my short time with Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. The game looks so gorgeous, its music is infectiously happy no matter how bad I’m fudging up a level, and it looks packed to the brim with ways to make the game both easier and more challenging for newcomers and old hands alike. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is purported to feature all 300 stages from Super Monkey Ball Deluxe and a compilation of stages from Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2, as well as Golden Banana, Dark Banana, and Reverse modes. We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg as far as what this game has to offer, but I’m thoroughly digging how it’s played out so far. Stay tuned as we get closer to the game's full release in October!
This preview is based on a digital Nintendo Switch copy of the game supplied by the publisher. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is set to launch on October 1, 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam.