Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review (Switch)

More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys?

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

I’ve been a fan of Super Monkey Ball since the original console version launched with the GameCube in 2021. My friends and I spent a shocking number of hours racing around treacherous levels, competing in clever minigames, and generally having more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Yet this is a series that, for a long time now, has seemed like its peak was behind it. The last truly original game in the series, outside of a smartphone game that merely borrowed the series’ characters, was released twelve years ago. Since then, we’ve seen a couple of decent remakes but nothing else.

Based on the series’ relatively rocky recent history, I didn’t know whether to be excited or nervous when a new Super Monkey Ball game was announced. However, a part of me definitely hoped that it would recapture what I loved so much about those earlier entries. Despite a slightly revamped art style, which is a bit simplified for my taste, I’m glad to say that Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble does just that. This isn’t a perfect new entry, but it captures a lot of what was great about the series, at least if you’re mostly looking for a single-player adventure.

 

Goal!

 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble’s story mode brings all your favorite monkeys back, including some from later entries in the series who could have easily been forgotten. They’re joined by a new monkey named Palette, a young adventurer whose father has gone missing. You’ll help her discover lost artifacts she believes will help find him. The stories of Monkey Ball have always been less memorable than the characters, and that’s no different here, but it’s nice that they at least tried. Still, the reason to play Banana Rumble is the actual gameplay.

Once you’re dropped into your first stage, you’ll find this is very much a Monkey Ball game. You tilt each stage to move the ball, needing to get it to a goal at the end of the level. Move through the goal to win. Along the way, you’ll be able to complete extra objectives like collecting bananas, getting a special banana, or beating the level in a set amount of time to gain points, which can be used to unlock new characters and cosmetics.

The early stages are relatively easy, but don’t let your guard down. Like most games in this series, things will eventually get very difficult as you near the end of the main story mode, which features 100 levels. That’s not the end of it either, with another 100 levels you can unlock after completing the story. There’s a lot of content here, and in order to see the end of them, you’ll have to really master the game’s movement, which at times requires you to be super precise, while at other times, you need to zoom through a level at breakneck speeds. A new spin dash ability lets you get an extra burst of speed at the right moment as well, and the actual movement of your character feels as good as it ever has in this series. If things get too difficult, there are also some nice assist features like checkpoints, a ghost guide, and even rewind available after a few deaths as well.

 

Missing The Mark

 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

If you’re here for the old-school Monkey Ball stages, I’m confident you’ll be happy with Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble. These are as good as any entry we’ve had in the series. That’s always been only one aspect of this series, though, and for many, the less important aspect. From the very first game in the series, multiplayer mini-games have been at the core of what players love about this series, and Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble certainly offers players multiplayer options to explore. It’s just too bad that they’re easily the least interesting part of this package.

Despite performing well online and featuring up to 16 players, the five battle modes here are simply not that interesting. They’ll be capable of holding players’ attention for a short time, but I can’t imagine anyone pulling them out with their friends for years to come. The race mode is probably the best of the bunch, featuring several interesting levels and offering a fine time even if it can’t live up to most dedicated racing games. A lack of level variety soon had me ready to be done with it, though. Banana Hunt has you chasing down the most bananas in a level in a set amount of time, but the pattern of where you needed to go was so similar every time that it quickly grew stale. Ba-Boom is basically tag with a bomb and was perhaps my least favorite of the bunch. The final two modes, Goal Rush, which has you and your foes racing down a slope to claim gates, and Robot Smash, which has you competing to destroy robots, feel the truest to the minigames of the series’ past, but while both are fun for a few plays, neither really stands out as all that interesting. None of them come close to the fun of the series’ best multiplayer experiences.

 

Conclusion

 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble offers a great single-player experience, and if that’s what you’re looking for, I would absolutely recommend it. However, Monkey Ball has always been at its best during multiplayer mayhem, and that side of this release, despite offering some fleeting fun, feels like a missed opportunity. It’s great to see Super Monkey Ball back with a new game, but hopefully, any future entry will fully capture what made this series so beloved in the first place.

 


Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Sega; Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios; Players: 16; Released: June 25th, 2024; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $49.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble provided by the publisher.

 

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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