Preview | Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania
Almost 20 years ago, the Nintendo Gamecube released. Besides some familiar faces, Sega launched a new series on Nintendo’s machine known as Super Monkey Ball. The simple premise of rolling a monkey in a ball to the end of maze was easy to learn and hard to master. Thankfully, thanks to addicting gameplay, colorful visuals and fun mini-games, the series became a hit. It’s why the announcement of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania came at the perfect time. The series just reached its 20th anniversary and it’s nice to see some of the old mazes get a shiny HD coat of paint. Thankfully, that’s not the only thing fans have to look forward to.
Banana Mania takes the puzzles from the first two games in the series and blends them together (similar to the Deluxe release for the PS2 and Xbox). Going through some of those courses again in challenge mode evokes a lot of nostalgia. The developers were able to recreate a lot of the old courses with the Unity Engine to a T. Not to mention the controls are spot on as well. Players actually have to tilt the entire area in order to lead their character to the end. In addition to the classic challenge mode, there’s also a story mode with short animated cutscenes. This depicts our simian heroes against an evil baboon professor in order to save their banana filled island. The cutscenes are cute and brief, so they don’t impede on progression.
Unlike the old games, there are no lives to worry about. Players of various skill levels are free to retry each area over and over until they nail the mechanics. This begs to question what are the collectible bananas for if not for extra lives? Bananas are now used as currency, and alongside in-game achievements, can unlock a plethora of different rewards. A lot of the rewards in the game revolve around cosmetics. Players can purchase different outfits or ball frames, or even unlock brand new characters. Many of those in particular will definitely delight the hardcore Sega fans.
In addition to the single player features, Banana Mania brings back the classic 12 mini-games from the GameCube era. All of them are recreations to excellent degree, like the fast-paced “Monkey Race,” a ball rolling Mario Kart inspired racer. “Monkey Fight” attaches a boxing glove to a monkey and allows them to bump their rivals out of the arena. Even the more straightforward modes like “Bowling” or “Billiards” work extremely well thanks to the series’ flair. A lot of the modes are for up to four players, and to have such a delightful local multiplayer game come out this year is definitely a blessing.
From the short time I spent with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania so far, Sega definitely wants to celebrate the 20th anniversary with as much panache as possible. The faithful recreation of both the single and multiplayer offerings will make fans salivate, and the new unlockables will ensure there’s plenty to see for a long time. In fact, I barely scratched the surface with this game and I hope I can give out more solidified impressions before release. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania releases on October 5th, 2021 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. We’ll be sure to have our review around launch as well!