Reviews

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Review: A blast from the past

Warts and all.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a franchise fan’s greatest wish… apart from an actual new entry, that is. A remaster of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which itself was a bundle of Super Monkey Ball 1 & 2, Banana Mania boasts 300 recreated stages alongside a host of 4-player party games.

While Super Monkey Ball lovers will be pleased with the bundle, it ultimately splattered out for me.

We’re living in a time of nostalgia. Alan Wake Remastered is less than a week away and Diablo 2 Resurrected has just graced the PC. I’m sure each and every one of us could name a different remastered or remade title from within the past two years. As with many of the remastered variety, those that live and breathe the franchise will find enjoyment and perhaps look beyond the imperfections of a game designed years and years ago; I merely found frustration.

Super Monkey Ball is more unforgiving than difficult. Even with some of its 300 recreated stages being reworked to offer less of a challenge, I was finding myself becoming impatient from as early as World 2-10. In that specific level — and no matter what I did — Banana Mania‘s physics bested me. I could make it from one flying platform, to a second, maybe to a third and occasionally to a fourth, but never beyond that.

It’s here that Banana Mania‘s “helper” features come into play; a pop-up tells you that you’re awful and says that you might be able to beat the level by turning on some accessibility features. The prompt continues on to say that in doing so, you’ll invalidate your score, your time and  you won’t get proper credit for completing the level.

What a great feeling that is.

After twenty minutes of failure, I opted to try the features out and became even more frustrated. First, an optimal path guide will place yellow arrows along the groung, each pointing towards the level’s finishing gate; in most cases, that’s basically a straight line. Next is a slow-mo mechanic which doesn’t help when it comes to balancing a ball on a suspended pedestal that rockets from left to right.

You can now jump as well, but that wasn’t helping me in this instance either.

After failing with the helpers, I decided enough was enough and marked the level as finished using the menus, again being reminded that I took the easy way out. I also didn’t meet the criteria for the World 2 Achievement in doing so.

I understand there’s more to life than Achievements, but this nonetheless stung. In a day and age where the likes of Psychonauts 2 and The Last of Us Part 2 are making bold statements that everyone should be able to play a game and that there’s no shame in a lower difficulty level, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania goes in the complete opposite direction. It was enough to make me put the game away for a day or so because I just wasn’t having fun.

I stopped sooking eventually and grabbed my husband for Banana Mania‘s 12 party games, having more and more fun as we worked through the list. While some of them are stale (Dogfight and Shot, I’m looking at you) the majority are great fun with some mates or even against the AI. The trouble here is though I know I’ve played each of Banana Mania‘s games at least three times over (and that’s not even including variants — I’ve done all those too), my Achievement tracker for “Life of the Party” has been stuck at 91% since day once. Again, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s yet another thing seemingly intending to remove a little joy from my experience.

By the way, I also went back and eventually got the better of World 2-10, but by then I was kinda over it.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is weird, expansive and tricky. I just know die-hard fans are going to love that combination, but I’m not sure about anyone else. While its party games are pretty good, there are other compilations out there with a better assortment… and online play, and the capacity more than 4 players. Countering all my complaints, Banana Mania is competitively priced, so might warrant a look if you’re familiar with how the franchise plays. How’s that for a backhanded endorsement?

7 out of 10

The good

  • Die-hards will love this new bundle of 300 classic levels.
  • A fitting 20th anniversary hit of nostalgia.
  • A great mix of party games.

The bad

  • It’s unforgiving and wants you to know when you suck.
  • Not for everyone.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox Series X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

5 October 2021
PC PS4 PS5 Switch Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.