Thu. Jul 25th, 2024


The Super Monkey Ball franchise has experienced its fair share of peaks and troughs over the years. The first two GameCube titles knocked it out of the park, providing a plethora of content from the addictive maze-like main stages to the incredible minigames. Since then, however, the series has seemingly been unable to reach the same heights, either content to take one step forward and two steps back, or otherwise completely fumbling the (monkey) ball altogether.

After Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania instilled a smidgen of confidence with its commendable restoration of Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2, Sega is back with a brand-new entry in the form of Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble. However, in keeping with franchise tradition, it’s yet another game that just can’t quite hit the home run, combining a solid single-player experience with a bunch of multiplayer modes that, frankly, aren’t worth the price of admission or the time investment.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Starting with the positives, however, the single-player campaign is great fun from start to finish. It’s exactly what you’d come to expect from Super Monkey Ball at this point and includes 100 levels split across 10 unique worlds. Once you’ve completed these, you can then double this number with a bunch of bonus levels of immense complexity, challenging even the most experienced of Monkey Ball fans. Granted, there wasn’t anything here that blew us away in terms of creativity or uniqueness, but what we’ve got is a healthy selection of well-designed, fun levels. We suspect this is all that most people are hoping for.

In addition to the strong selection of levels, the actual gameplay feels pretty great, too. The physics aren’t quite up there with the GameCube originals, but it’s about as close as the series has gotten in recent years. There’s plenty of opportunity to ‘break’ levels with crazy jumps or absurd feats of speed, and we can’t wait to see how quickly players manage to get through the game in the weeks and months to come.

To enhance the gameplay further, Banana Rumble takes a cue from Sonic the Hedgehog and introduces a new ‘Spin Dash’ ability. By holding down ‘B’ at any point, you can charge up your dash and enjoy a brief burst of speed. This is not only helpful for completing the levels more quickly, but it also allows you to skip across certain platforms, jump across ramps, and much more. We’re surprised at how vital the dash ability ends up being during some of the later levels. Those afraid that it might have turned out to be a useless gimmick can rest easy; its implementation results in a simple yet effective evolution of the core Super Monkey Ball gameplay.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

So what’s our problem, then? Well, the multiplayer is a bit naff. Going off the game’s title, one could argue that the five modes included here are the biggest draw of the entire experience, but honestly, we’d rather have minigames like Monkey Target and Monkey Bowling. That’s not nostalgia talking, either – they’re genuinely much better than what’s being offered in Banana Rumble.

The five modes included are Race, Banana Hunt, Ba-BOOM, Goal Rush, and Robot Smash, and the problem with all of them is that they’re either too chaotic with the maximum number of players (16), or too boring when there are only a handful of you. There’s no middle ground, no sweet spot where the modes actually feel fun to play, and it’s so frustrating.

Take the Race mode, for example. The courses here include a mix of long straights in which to build up some nice momentum and intricate puzzle areas that require more precise movement. When you reach the latter segments, don’t be surprised when a bunch of other players come careening into you as they too make it to the same area. It results in a visual mess in which you’ll struggle to make out your own character amongst a sea of monkeys, and it just isn’t particularly fun. It’s clear Sega was striving for a Fall Guys vibe with this, but it just doesn’t work.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

This is only exacerbated by the frame rate. During single-player missions, the game runs at a lovely, silky-smooth 60fps and it feels great. Head into the multiplayer modes, or add an additional player to the campaign, and you the frame rate is halved to 30. It’s a jarring change that, while certainly not unplayable, is a tough pill to swallow after you’ve spent so much time working your way through the single-player stages.

A couple of the modes have potential to be enjoyable later down the road, perhaps if Sega adds more stages or characters. As it stands, the only one we would recommend at the moment is Ba-BOOM, in which you basically pass bombs over to your opponents by rolling into them before the time runs out. On the flip side, Goal Rush is absolutely pants and simply requires you to boost into a bunch of goal posts to score points. Yawn.

Aside from the main modes, Banana Rumble boasts a healthy amount of bonus collectibles and fun little extras. You’ve got a total of seven playable characters to start off with, along with some unlockable characters available via the in-game shop as you progress. All of these can then be upgraded with cosmetic items, including clothing, new ball colours, and unique effects. There’s a lot to dive into in terms of customisation, and it’ll take you a good while to unlock everything.

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You’ve also got a ‘Memories’ section in which you can view unlocked movies, listen to music tracks, and rewatch any saved replays. ‘Missions’ includes a bunch of unique ‘achievements’ to keep track of and gain bonus points, while an intriguing global leaderboard function requires you to spend your accumulated points in order to grow a palm tree. Pretty random, to be sure, but a good way to see how you’re stacking up against the competition. Finally, the game includes a fun, albeit rather barebones photo mode. You can unlock new poses via the in-game shop, so it’s a nice little feature to play around with for a while.

Conclusion

If all you’re looking for in a new Super Monkey Ball game is a selection of new single-player levels to tackle, then you’re in luck, because Banana Rumble boasts some of the best stages we’ve seen in recent memory. The additional ‘Spin Dash’ ability makes traversal a lot more fun, and the physics feel as close to ‘classic’ Monkey Ball as the franchise has got in quite some time. Unfortunately, if you’re looking forward to the multiplayer modes, then temper your expectations. They’re simply not very good for the most part and are significantly hampered by the drop in frame rate. We almost scored this a point lower, but the quality of the single-player just about pulls it up. As it stands, Banana Rumble is a mixed bag, but one worth delving into if you’re itching for more single-player shenanigans.






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#Super #Monkey #Ball #Banana #Rumble #Review #Switch

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