There’s something potentially sinister about housing monkeys in small plastic spheres, but the look of pure joy on their faces suggest they actually quite enjoy it. And why wouldn’t they, Super Monkey Ball is back and Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a remake of the best title in the series’ 20-year history: Super Monkey Ball Deluxe.
Banana Mania is a massive compilation of everything Monkey Ball. Not only does it contain every single level released for Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 – plus the levels created for the Deluxe release for over 300 in total – there are a ton of different modes and minigames included too. As a celebration of 20 years of Super Monkey Ball, this is the new ultimate compilation.
For the uninformed, the basic premise of Super Monkey Ball is as crazy as it gets. On one hand it is very reminiscent to Marble Madness in terms of gameplay, but the ball you control and manoeuvre just happens to have a cartoon monkey inside it, happily collecting bananas. And just like Marble Madness it is deceptively difficult. The main mode is separated into ten worlds and it eases you in gently before throwing you under a bus around world three. And some of the additional DX, Classic and Master courses should not even be attempted unless you have a few spare controllers to break out of pure frustration.
Veteran players will love it.
For the most part, Banana Mania looks and feels as you remember. Some new quality of life features have been added in, but they will likely feel morally wrong if you’ve ever played any of the others. For starters, there is a jump function available to buy from the shop. And this undoubtedly makes things easier, but at a cost of having to sell your soul to the devil. Woe betide anyone that purchases this and I find out about it.
The camera can also be controlled, but it depends on the context as to whether if it helps or hinders. Some levels do become easier, but likewise some become harder if you do try and move it.
Ai Ai and his pals all return for the remake, along with a host of extra characters. Sonic the Hedgehog makes a second appearance after his cameo in Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, this time joined by Tails too. Then there is Kiryu Kazuma from Yakuza, Beat from Jet Set Radio and some lesser known Super Monkey Ball characters from previous entries. Banana Mania has an extensive customisation catalogue that allows you to fully change the attire of the main monkeys – though not the supporting cast – and also their balls from the shop.
More characters will be available as DLC over time. Banana Mania already has several add-on packs. For existing fans though, the original soundtrack is a must buy. It is disappointing to not have it included in the base game like many other remakes would do, but is well worth the £3.99.
But how do you pay for things in this world? With bananas! Veteran Super Monkey Ball players will no doubt be familiar with collecting bananas, but this time around they have a much bigger use as you make the most of the bananas you have collected in the shop to pay for outfits, characters, new modes and more.
Banana Mania also rewards additional bananas for pretty much every activity through Missions, where you can quickly rack up vast amounts of bananas from just completing levels. There are hundreds of missions to complete and these help lengthen a game that is already able to deliver endless amounts of fun.
No Super Monkey Ball is complete without a suite of minigames, and Banana Mania features 12 of the very best, including the legendary Monkey Target. These could quite easily be released as a standalone compilation such is the depth and replayability to them all. There are Super Monkey Ball versions of pool, bowling, racing, football, tennis, baseball and more. These are the same 12 that featured in the original Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, but it is a joy to have them presented here again in all their glory. For example, Monkey Billiards features 9-ball and 8-ball versions of pool, Monkey Bowling has a challenge mode where you try and clear increasingly difficult splits, racing can be done on dry land and as a boat with several unique tracks for each mode and Monkey Target is just the most fun you could ever have with a monkey in a ball.
These can all be played locally with friends, but there is sadly no online multiplayer. There are online leaderboards for some of these minigames, but the wait for an eSports league of Super Monkey Ball minigames continues.
Banana Mania isn’t just a simple remake, nor is it a perfect one. The move to the Unity engine caused issues in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for muscle memory, and that is the same case for Banana Mania. Speedrunners will also struggle with having to relearn the minutiae needed to help them exploit the mechanics. However, for many average players, these are minor issues.
Franchise fans may have been a bit disappointed when they heard that Super Monkey Ball was coming back in 2019, but in the form of Banana Blitz HD. This divisive entry into the series wouldn’t have been many fans’ first choice game to remake. But with Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania on Xbox, this is easily the one remake fans will have wanted. Banana Mania is the ultimate Super Monkey Ball collection: the best levels, the best minigames and the best fun. But don’t let the cute graphics lull you into a false sense of security, even with the questionable quality of life improvements, it remains as tricky and as addictive as ever.
Grab a bunch of bananas and play Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One