REVIEW: ‘Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania’ – Good Metaphor, Mediocre Game (XSX)

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Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania - But Why Tho

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is the latest Super Monkey Ball game from developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and publisher SEGA celebrating AiAi and the series’ 20th anniversary. It’s a remake of every level the series has ever had with a few extra bells, whistles, and playable SEGA characters trapped in balls to roll around.

In Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, you play as a monkey trapped inside a ball, the world constantly pushing you around. Sure, you scramble away with your little feet, rolling yourself harder and pushing your acceleration. But ultimately, you are insignificant against the forces of gravity and inertia. You are trapped inside a ball. And the world tilts violently beneath your feet and moves you as it wills. Sometimes, it tilts you precisely where you intended to go. You grab your bananas along the way, probably miss a bunch since you’re not exactly in control, and eventually wind up in the goal. Maybe worse for wear and shaken up but, still there nonetheless.

Other times though, you just fall completely off track and are forced to restart your little levels over and over and over until the game asks if you need help. At this point, you either accept it so you might move on faster or don’t because you’re stubborn, and the pain of having so little control over your fate somehow also manages to exhilarate you. There’s no shame in either outcome. The level ends eventually. You’re showered with praise, prompted immediately to do it all again, and so on and on and on.

I can’t help but feel, especially these days, like we’re all basically just little monkeys trapped inside balls with the floor constantly moving beneath us no matter how hard we run our little legs. It’s not a fun feeling. Unfortunately, neither really is Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania. I’ve never played a Super Monkey Ball game before this one: I harbor no nostalgia, only an affinity, usually, for the type of game this is where you have a simple goal but an increasingly difficult time achieving it. I remember always eying it on friends’ shelves and perhaps thinking it looked fun on the scant occasions I saw them playing it.

But it’s not a difficult game simply because the levels get longer and more complicated. It’s chiefly because the physics of this game, as well as its poor camera tracking and angle, are just entirely non-intuitive. It’s not bad or broken. It’s just outdated. It feels like playing a clunky Gamecube game with sharp graphics because that’s basically what this is. The game’s levels have been tweaked to eliminate some of the worst of the gravitational annoyances on individual levels, but that can’t change the fact that the whole game is based on a sticky premise of letting gravity move you while you jog helplessly from within a ball.

If you’re a fan of Super Monkey Ball, surely you’ll enjoy this game. It’s graphically strong and has truly endless levels and challenges. Besides completing levels and collecting all the bananas within, there are time challenges, reverse levels, banana collecting versions of levels, customization options and game modes to unlock, and a host of multiplayer mini-games.

But if you’re not a fan already or not used to the way the game handles and the crushingly frustrating monotony of restarting these short levels countless times, don’t count too much on finding new joy in the game. It’s a solid remake, but with nothing to make the game feel fresh or to modernize its physics or camera, I’d simply say some games are better left on the shelf.

Nostalgia might have some fans of Super Monkey Ball trapped in the little ball with them, running their little feet, futile against the inevitability of gravity. But for those not already on the inside, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is skippable.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is available on October 5th on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.


Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Nostalgia might have some fans of Super Monkey Ball trapped in the little ball with them, running their little feet, futile against the inevitability of gravity. But for those not already on the inside, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is skippable.