Super Monkey Ball was an iconic series on GameCube. A game with a simple principle. Bring your monkey, which is in a ball, to the goal. It’s been 20 years since we had the chance to experience this adorable puzzle game for the first time, and to celebrate, SEGA decided to make a game that pays homage to Monkey Ball’s humble beginnings.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a remaster of the first three Super Monkey Ball home console games in a nice package. It’s not a complete reinvention of Monkey Ball. This is what you knew from the early 2000s brought back with a fresh coat of paint. It’s like a nice brew with a slice of banana bread, which is a good thing.
Fuzzy and warm nostalgia, however, can only play a game so far. Let’s dive into what works and what doesn’t in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.
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♬ Invincible (09.12.14) – Sean Vella
Graphics and styling
If you’re looking for a game that will push the PS5 to its limits, it isn’t, but it ran at a constant frame rate with fast load times which was nice. Being able to navigate story mode and challenge courses without waiting on long loading screens or navigating menus really helps keep the momentum going.
Also very nice are the unlockable characters that change the appearance of bananas on the courses and match the Monkey Ball aesthetic. I found the way they presented the story mode a little underwhelming and basic but, at the same time, most people don’t play this game for a story mode.
In some areas, I felt the game could do more. The water, for example, was just a little flat compared to the originals and there are a few changes in designs or other areas of the game that make it feel like you’ve lost your heart a bit.
There are, however, plenty of great customization options to help you narrow the experience down to the one you find most visually appealing. All courses are alike and most of them are alike, as mini-games do. Hardcore fans will certainly notice the differences, but it’s worth remembering that this is a remaster, not a port.
How a Super Monkey Ball game plays out is arguably more important than how it looks. Monkey Ball in general is a masterclass in arcade style games. Small steps which are all achievable but which encourage replayability. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania takes some of the best milestones we’ve ever seen in the series and puts them all in a quick load package on PS5.
It leads to an experience that always strikes you with that “just one more level”. The fact that the game is a remaster of early console games means that while it brings some of the best levels, it also brings levels that just weren’t as good. The camera can be frustrating at times, especially in the more complex levels, but it’s something you get used to.
With the range of modes available, if you get stuck or bored with a level, you can just try another mode or level. You can even check out Party games. Slightly disappointingly, these aren’t online, but the games work best as a local multiplayer option. Not all Party Games have the same level of fun and replayability, but they offer something different to the courses and can also be played solo.
You can also use the points you earn to unlock new modes, stages, and even jump to add even more replayability. Leaderboards allow you to see how others around the world are doing on challenges. As of this writing, these boards aren’t overwhelmingly populated, but that should hopefully lead to a competitive challenge scene for the game.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania feels like a priority for accessibility. The text is big (although I didn’t see any options to make it bigger), the controls can be reversed, and you can change the audio levels individually. Due to the fundamental nature of many elements of Monkey Ball (tilting the joystick to tilt the stage and the role towards the goal), there is a lack of button presses, which means more people can do it. ‘experience.
Assist mode guides you where to go, more time, and lets you use unlimited slow motion. So if you are having trouble with a level, you can take your time to figure it out. You can even turn off assist mode if you feel like you have a better understanding of the level and want to try and tackle it unaided.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is perfect for fans who want to revisit what they grew up with on modern consoles. It’s also a great entry point for new fans. Some of the best levels and modes in Super Monkey Ball history are all in one place. While some elements of the game have aged better than others and there are a few missteps, there’s no denying that there’s a charm in the latest Super Monkey Ball.
Even with its issues, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is fun to play. It fills you with nostalgia while showing off the highlights of the series. It will be interesting to see where the franchise goes next.
Featured Image Credit: SEGA
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