Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review


Aside from remasters and remakes, the Super Monkey Ball series has been dormant for a decade. At some point, it began to feel like AiAi and his crew of monkeys were relics of a bygone era, and Super Monkey Ball was little more than a nostalgia-filled series with no place in the contemporary gaming landscape. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble challenges that notion, delivering an experience that’s at once delightful, infuriating, and satisfying, but above all, fun.

At its best, Banana Rumble Adventure Mode offers some of the best stages in Super Monkey Ball history. Particularly early on, I enjoyed coming up with optimal strategies to progress through the puzzle-like levels while completing three optional missions that involved collecting a certain number of bananas, catching the golden banana, and completing the game within a certain time limit. With the modern spin-dash move, I loved figuring out ways to launch my character off ramps and mouths to rocket past the goal or grab the golden banana.

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The early stages best illustrate the easy-to-learn, hard-to-master characteristic of the series. Traversing stages in the first few worlds is intuitive and carefree thanks to improved physics and a better camera. These levels are ripe for experimentation to find the best ways to successfully progress through the level; Many times I wondered if the creators intended for me to complete the stage this way, or if I had discovered some secret. These stages represent the Super Monkey Ball series at its absolute peak.

As you might expect, progressing through the Adventure Mode campaign involves increasingly arduous levels. While I love conquering a arduous level, the restrictive nature of the more arduous obstacle courses often ruins my favorite aspect of the mode: experimentation. Instead of finding optimal paths and ways to crack levels in later stages, I found myself simply fighting for survival in a desperate attempt to reach the goal.

The stages toward the end of the 200-level campaign go beyond Banana Rumble’s cute and colorful aesthetic to deliver pulse-pounding challenges that had me gripping the controller as tightly as I could while my character raced around corners and tempted fate with death-defying jumps. I largely enjoyed these levels, though they occasionally exposed the limitations of even the improved physics system, and the busier the stages became, the more noticeable the performance dips became.

If these stages ever seem too arduous, you can enable the helper features, which add a ghost guide, arrows showing the best path, a rewind function, and a checkpoint halfway through the stage. While I used them extremely sparingly, when I did enable them, they immediately proved invaluable in overcoming an obstacle I was stuck on.

Adventure mode can be played with up to four players in co-op, but true multiplayer lets up to 16 players compete in a variety of party-style mini-games. Players can compete in drawn-out races where the “rubber-tiring” isn’t a result of AI ability, but rather the track gets increasingly arduous the further you get ahead. I enjoyed this twist on a tried-and-true formula, especially with the various power-ups that introduce extra chaos into the mix.

Meanwhile, Ba-Boom provides a fun survival-based variation of tag, and Goal Rush challenges your precision and zeal as you roll down the hill, activating gates in a lightning-fast, high-risk, high-reward attack. The other two battle modes, Banana Hunt and Robot Smash, involve collecting bananas on an open map and rushing at robots to deal as much damage as possible, respectively. Banana Hunting and Robot Smashing were my least favorite, but they’re still fascinating side activities to the main course of Adventure Mode.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble aptly demonstrates that the series still has something to offer in 2024 beyond nostalgia. With an eclectic mix of platforming levels and party games, Banana Rumble doesn’t hold back too much, offering a solid package that effectively announces the series’ true return.

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