super monkey ball banana rumble review

Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble Means Monkey Business

It’s been so long since an original Super Monkey Ball game! It’s true, Banana Blitz HD and Banana Mania did feel like they were leading to a truly new release, but still: we’re happy to see it. This time, it’s clear that the development team saw Fall Guys and said, “hey, we can make one of those.” Still, there’s a lot Monkey Ball can bring to the idea, and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble combines it with a fresh new Adventure mode for AiAi traditionalists.

Recommended Videos

First: the single-player! Or, rather, Adventure mode generally, since the game adds the ability to play through these levels with friends. It’s more of a social thing that doesn’t affect the gameplay very much, but nevertheless, it’s a nice bonus! And hey, maybe split-screen with friends and family will lessen the frustration of the harder levels just a bit. The Adventure mode comprises the traditional Super Monkey Ball experience: tilting a board to move your ball to the goal in 200 stages broken up into themed worlds. You can do this with tilt controls, if you want! Which is great. But the game defaults to analog stick control, and you’ll need to dig into the settings to use motion. 

super monkey ball banana rumble review

The new mechanic — you knew they had to add one, whether you wanted one or not — is the Spin Dash, allowing a burst of speed and momentum that doesn’t necessarily align with your active roll. It’s a bit tricky to pull off a change of direction (with the default control mapping), but we’re sure the trick shots with this new mechanic are going to be ludicrous. 

The boards are designed to be generally clearable by most, with special collectibles and time-chasing serving to provide higher difficulty. That’s a good game balance to target, and though perpetual franchise scrubs like us will still hit a snag occasionally just clearing a level, it mostly does its job on that front. To help newcomers, there are a suite of welcome helper functions. You can rewind stages! There are mid-level checkpoints sometimes! There are tutorial-like ghosts you can enable, too. If your goal is simply to get through the level, these should help.

There’s also a story to this mode? We aren’t going to talk about it. It’s bad, which is fine, because it also doesn’t matter. Skip the cinematics and get back to tilting.

this is ba-boom mode

It’s multiplayer that brings the most new ideas to the ever-tilting table. Up to 16 players match up in varied modes: Race, Banana Hunt, Ba-Boom!, Goal Rush, and Robot Smash. In Race, you unsurprisingly roll through a checkpoint-laden course and try to reach the end as close to first as you can manage. This mode’s courses are designed to get easier as time goes on, keeping players in the hunt. It does mean that you don’t necessarily want to be first for most of the race, and also even the “easy” form of the tracks can be profoundly annoying when hit with multiple items or when the segment that troubles you the most just happens to not be a segment that gets easier with time.

Somewhat ironically, given both the inspiration and the franchise’s history, but a lot of the multiplayer segments would benefit from less falling. There are a ton of checkpoints in the races, and these mitigate the effects, but Monkey Ball’s more momentum-based approach makes falling that much more punishing and discouraging.

Banana Hunt and Ba-Boom! Are Mario Kart-like battle modes, with the former focused on banana collection and the latter on either bumping into or avoiding other players to make sure you aren’t holding a bomb when time expires. All the games are relatively fast, though we wish it were more playlist-based instead of kicking you out to the lobby between events. Perhaps this pacing will change with a full player server?

super monkey ball banana rumble review

Goal Rush is trying something, for sure, as it’s a slalom-like event that has you claiming gates for your team and trying to target ones worth more points. Each time you enter a goal, you’re placed back at the top, and size, movement and distance all result in goals of varied value. Robot Smash feels like the “let’s make sure slow characters have an advantage in at least one challenge” mode. You slam into robots to deal damage and destroy them, and doing so earns team points.

There’s a robust customization suite here! And that is nice for a multiplayer game, especially with its lack of microtransactions and adherence to earned in-game currency. However, we here believe that GonGon should have his G shirt and it’s not an option, so that’s a real strike against the aesthetic offerings. In all seriousness, it’s nice to be able to have different looks for online play. That said, if you’re opting out of the free-to-play microtransaction hellscape in which the industry largely now finds itself, maybe you don’t have to still use the same unlock schemes and menus? Maybe this game doesn’t need gacha mechanics and login bonuses? Something to consider, perhaps?

We were hoping that the Switch exclusivity of the game’s initial release would mean that the Switch version is, technically speaking, nice and smooth. Instead, the hitching and other hiccups suggest to us that an eventual port might be the ideal experience. It’s already a given that the Switch’s online play heavily benefits from a wired connection, but in terms of surviving the inevitable wi-fi players in the group, Banana Rumble honestly does okay.

super monkey ball banana rumble review

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble is a welcome return to new ideas for the franchise, and does manage to avoid inferior minigame replication disappointment by… not replicating the old minigames at all! The choice to ape (pun intended, pun always intended, you know us) Fall Guys’ multiplayer formula isn’t the best, but there’s some fun here. And the main mode is enjoyable too!

Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble launches on Nintendo Switch on June 25, 2024. It is, at least for the moment, exclusive to the console.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble

Join AiAi and friends in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, where you and up to 16 players can compete online across multiple game modes as you aim to become Top Banana! You can also work together with your favorite bunch in 4 player cooperative mode, or slip into a wonderfully crafted story in the all-new Adventure Mode experience! Switch version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble is a welcome return to new ideas for the franchise, and does manage to avoid inferior minigame replication disappointment by… not replicating the old minigames at all! The choice to ape (pun intended, pun always intended, you know us) Fall Guys’ multiplayer formula isn’t the best, but there’s some fun here. And the main mode is enjoyable too!

Food for Thought
  • With its reliance on precise control and reflexes, Super Monkey Ball remains, fundamentally, a young person’s game. We were young once…
  • The post-campaign EX levels are, understandably, brutal! Set expectations accordingly.
  • YanYan is, canonically, faster than Sonic. Something to think about.

Siliconera is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Graham Russell
Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.