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If Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania was sentient, I'm convinced it would smile with glee each time my sphere-wearing character falls off a level. I can picture it, barely concealing its laughter, as I hit retry for the 12th time. "I'll nail it this time," I'd tell myself, just before careening off into the abyss again. And yet, I'd also be smiling, because Banana Mania is a wonderful game even when it's getting the better of you.
Watch the trailer for Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania here
The basic gameplay of Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania tasks you with guiding a monkey in a translucent ball to a goal. This involves tilting the level to control the direction your adorable friend rolls in, dodging any and all obstacles en route. There are also bananas to collect, adding a nice degree of challenge if you fancy grabbing them all. As you progress through the levels, the difficulty increases.
At its core, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a fast-paced puzzle game. Its mechanics are easy to grasp but mastery takes time, effort and dedication. We've been down this road countless times before, but the thrill of a good puzzler is not to be underestimated. Just because a level looks straightforward doesn't mean it is, and that's one of the main reasons this game can eat up so much of your time.
Whether you want to grab every collectible on the map, or race through a zone as fast as your monkey-housing orb will allow, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania has you covered. If you're struggling, it has a helper function that increases the level's time limit, and shows you the easiest path to take. If you're still struggling, you can skip the area entirely and move to the next one.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania offers a wide choice of minigames, which are perfect for multiplayer action. They range from a billiards game where you use your monkey to pot balls, to a dogfighting game where monkeys fly through the air as they gun for each other. It's a bit like Chorus except not at all. Then there's 'Monkey Target', a game where you launch your monkey up high and aim to land on the highest-scoring area possible.
As you play, you'll unlike points which can be spent at the in-game shop. A selection of cosmetic items are available to jazz up your monkeys, because who doesn't love fashionable primates? There are also other characters to unlock, including Sonic the Hedgehog and a chibi-style Kazuma Kiryu from the iconic Yakuza franchise. As a fun detail, playing as Kiryu-chan replaces the on-map bananas with bottles of Staminan X, a healing item from his game series. I do love neat touches like that.
My only real criticisms of Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania are how ruthlessly difficult it can be at times, and its general lack of accessibility options. The former isn't necessarily a flaw as this franchise has never been one to go easy on you all the way through, but there are moments when it's impossible not to feel hard done by. The latter point is a more serious point.
Here at GAMINGbible we believe video games are for everyone, so a general lack of gameplay or controller modifiers is always going to stand out as a poor decision by the developers. The ability to increase the time limit is certainly a welcome choice, but there's so much more that could be done to let more players enjoy Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.
Overall, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a fantastic puzzle game. It's endlessly replayable with plenty of levels and minigames. The multiplayer options are perfect party games, and the unlockable characters and cosmetics add depth to an already engrossing experience. While there are some frustrating moments and a lack of accessibility, I can safely say Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is one you won't want to miss.
Pros: Incredibly replayable, compelling gameplay, excellent minigames
Cons: Unfair at times, limited accessibility
For fans of: Mario Party, Tetris, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania was tested on Xbox Series X with code provided by the publisher. Game releases October 5, 2021 for PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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