A remake of the first three games, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania brings the legendary platformer to the current generation of consoles to reach a new generation of players. Will the format have dated itself and is it simply hanging off the coat-tails of great recent remakes like Crash Bandicoot? Or is the series ready to have a whole new host of players ready to hurl controllers across rooms?
If you’ve not played the series before, and you’re not ready to simply buy it after the first paragraph, cast your mind back to the old physical table game – Labyrinth. You know the one, roll a silver ball round a maze avoiding the holes by twisting two knobs on the sides of the box at the same time. If you’re fondly but angrily remembering this power-cut staple (or was that just rural areas?) then Super Monkey Ball has your number.
You play the game as a monkey. In a ball. The super is what you make of it. Honestly, the monkey isn’t a superhero or magical. Technically, you’re not even controlling the monkey – you tilt the stages that the monkey in the aforementioned ball needs to traverse to reach a goal.
Needing a reason to justify my purchase, I took the game off to my niece and nephews’ to get it set up (read: practice repeatedly to show them how good I still am at the game) and then leave it with them so that they can enjoy a more ‘retro’ game.
Once it booted, installed, updated (why a remake still needs to download updates is beyond me, but I think we’re all used to it now…) I eagerly opened up the stages, chose GonGon (reliving my favourite character, one of the original four) and got ready to smash through my stages.
I could not have been more wrong. I’m not sure when exactly my hand-eye coordination went from 10 year surgical child prodigy to whatever it is now, but my inner child wept. This just served to spur me on however.
The game is not one you can pay to get better at. You can buy all sorts of cosmetics for the game, from unlocking backgrounds and new characters, but the mechanics remain – the same old unforgiving physics. You, like me, may find it less disheartening to watch various Sega characters plummet into the cartoonish abyss, but the game will have you back again and again.
If it sounds intimidating, it can honestly feel it. However, the learning curve is short, leaving you with stage upon stage that you can hurl yourself at saying ‘one more level, just one more level’.
If you want a more casual experience there’s also some great new accessibility options to add extra time, help guide you to the end of the path and other assist options if you want to dip in and out of the game as opposed to grinding at it until the small hours (it will happen if you let it).
There is a whole host of new modes to exploit as well. Apart from the multiplayer modes that gave the old series its popularity on the Gamecube, there are several modes to give even more longevity to the stages. This includes options that add items to collect (bananas mostly) and even a reverse mode, if you want to try and do the frustration all over again – backwards.
Whilst the game isn’t breaking new ground at all being a remake, it is still a fantastic throwback game to a platforming style rarely seen in games now.
Whether it’s being bought for kids, big kids or the family as the latest party game, it’s a great remake sure to entertain for hours – just remember to calmly breathe after falling off the map, controllers aren’t cheap.
Author: Tom, Cardiff store