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Review
Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review

A Ripe Return
by Brian Shea on Jun 26, 2024 at 10:22 AM

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Reviewed on Switch
Publisher Sega
Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios
Release
Rating Everyone

Outside of remasters and remakes, the Super Monkey Ball franchise has been dormant for a decade. At a certain point, it began feeling like AiAi and his crew of monkeys were relics of a bygone era and that Super Monkey Ball was little more than a nostalgic series that has no real place in the modern gaming landscape. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble disputes that assertion by delivering an experience that’s at once delightful, maddening, and rewarding, but above all else, fun.

At its best, Banana Rumble’s Adventure Mode delivers some of the top stages in Super Monkey Ball history. Particularly early on, I relished figuring out the optimal strategies to roll through the puzzle-like levels while achieving the three optional missions of collecting a set number of bananas, grabbing the golden banana, and finishing in a set time. Thanks to the new spin-dash move, I loved figuring out ways I could launch my character off ramps and lips to rocket through the goal or grab the golden banana.

The early stages best exemplify the series’ easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master hallmark. Blasting through stages in the first few worlds is intuitive and lighthearted thanks to improved physics and a better camera. Those levels are ripe for experimentation into the best ways to get through the level efficiently; on multiple occasions, I wondered if the developers intended for me to complete the stage in that manner or if I discovered some kind of secret. Those stages represent the Super Monkey Ball franchise at its absolute peak.

As you would expect, progression through Adventure Mode’s campaign brings increasingly difficult stages. Though I love trying to work my way through a difficult level, the restrictive nature of these more challenging obstacle courses often squashes my favorite aspect of this mode: experimentation. Instead of trying to find optimal paths and ways to sequence-break the levels, later stages in the game just had me fighting for survival as I desperately tried to make it to the goal.

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

If these stages ever feel too difficult, you can turn on Helper Functions, which add a ghost guide, arrows demonstrating the best path, a rewind function, and a mid-stage checkpoint. Though I used them extremely sparingly, if I ever turned them on, they immediately proved invaluable in getting past the roadblock I was stuck on.

Adventure Mode can be played with up to 4 players in co-op, but the real multiplayer experience allows for up to 16 players to compete in various party-style minigames. Players can compete in drawn-out races where rubber-banding comes not through the A.I.’s ability but rather the course being more challenging the further towards the front you are. I loved this twist on the tried-and-true formula, particularly with the various power-ups injecting extra chaos into the mix.

 

Meanwhile, Ba-Boom provides a fun survival-based tag variation, and Goal Rush challenges your precision and mettle as you roll down a hill, activating gates in a high-risk, high-reward blitz. The other two Battle Modes, Banana Hunt and Robot Smash, have you collecting bananas on an open map and launching into robots to deal as much damage as possible, respectively. Banana Hunt and Robot Smash were my least favorite of the bunch, but they still serve as fun side activities to Adventure Mode’s main course.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble aptly demonstrates that the franchise still has something to offer in 2024 beyond nostalgia. With an eclectic mix of platforming levels and party games, Banana Rumble holds little back, offering a robust package that effectively announces the series’ true return.

Products In This Article

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumblecover

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

Platform:
Switch
Release Date: