A monkey that inside a ball rolls around collecting bananas, always in danger of falling into the void and with a time limit to reach the final finish line. But be careful, the player does not control the ball and not even the monkey, but the game plan, the entire level, making it tilt carefully in order to push the ball, with the fundamental monkey inside, in the chosen direction.
This has been Super Monkey Ball ever since it was born: this is 2001, on Nintendo GameCube, and it was produced by a Sega that had just left Dreamcast and world domination behind. And so it can only be this "new" game, as you will discover in Super Monkey Ball review: Banana Mania, a package of wonders that includes all the joy of the series, recalibrated and adapted for the audience of the twenty-first century.
An immortal banana
Let's start immediately from Super Monkey Ball, from the beginning in short. It was one of the GameCube launch games and personally the one I bought on the fly along with Wave Race, because Wave Race is the coolest thing after world peace. Why was it a bomb? Because it was the classic arcade hit, where it debuted a few months before on GameCube. It was colorful, actually beautiful to look at, and its gameplay was all based on the turgid precision of the analog mounted on that pad, without forgetting the large number of levels and the very balanced difficulty. But that's not all: Super Monkey Ball also included minigames and they just happened to be more fun than the other, stuff that makes you laugh and a lot, and makes you do it in company. Good news: this first Super Monkey Ball, to which I also owe an unforgettable night of fire, is all in here, inside Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.
And along with Super Monkey Ball you will also find Super Monkey Ball 2, plus all the levels that were added in the 2005 deluxe edition, as well as several new modes and small but important differences from the past. Bringing Super Monkey Ball back to life was a must, for those who have never had the opportunity to try the game but also for those who basically can't do without it anymore. It will seem strange, given that it is a cursed monkey inside a transparent ball, but this series has seen it cooked and raw, it has come out practically everywhere generating spin-offs of all kinds, and this has been happening continuously for twenty years and for a reason: the brand, its concept, is fun, successful.
How could it not be successful? Super Monkey Ball is based on an idea that has practically always existed, or rather, has existed for a long time. The first wooden mazes to be tilted to advance the balls inside them date back to the late 1800s, becoming particularly popular thanks to the inventions of the American Charles Martin Crandall. The same concept comes back into vogue in the past 40s, thanks to the Swedish company BRIO which has the intuition to position the playing surface on a pivot, so that its inclination was no longer managed by hand, but through a lever. .
It is strange to describe something so common and popular by pretending that the reader does not know it, because actually everyone has played these games, even you who are still minors and are thinking that certain stuff does not concern you: who knows how many times you have torn up the soul to your parents for a coin to insert in those bar games which, after having brought the ball into the right hole, pay homage to you with crazy ball multicolor and / or chewing gum of the very good ones, but only for the first thirty seconds since then it inevitably turns into a wet rag. In some variants, common in Spain, the playing surface tilts not with a lever but through the steering wheel, with or without the aid of the pedals.
To play Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, that is the videogame version of the same concept that in the world is simply called "Labyrinth", none of this is needed: no coins, but a pad and its analog lever, the other lever instead will be used to argue with the camera. The rest is all in the hands of the user's speed of execution and precision, but in some cases it does not hurt a certain amount of lateral thinking that allows you to invent solutions that are not entirely foreseen by the game, but entirely valid for the game.high-score. Although the controls are in all respects identical to its analog predecessors, Super Monkey Ball cannot be defined in any way as a labyrinth, while it is fully part of the obstacle courses. The levels are mainly this: parabolic curves, precipices, deceptions of all kinds, holes everywhere, killer edges, toboggan escapes that first calm you and then at the first curve throw you into the void, and more mobile boxes, launch pipes, ramps and crossroads as you go up and down.
Then there is this strange like in rolling, ending in mechanisms that between bounces and slides launch you towards the next challenge of flames, breathtaking bottlenecks and perspective betrayals. All this while you are there with absolute thumb and tongue between your lips to boost perceptions. In Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania there are more than three hundred levels available, an enormity to which are added the special stages related to the new challenge modes, all fun and almost all banana-centric: in the Golden Banana mode you have to take them all, in the Dark Banana Mode you have to avoid them instead.
Mini games to go crazy
It is true that we are talking about decades-old content, but in the outline Sega has worked very well adding where necessary and leaving intact what should not have been touched. With the result that we find ourselves in front of a boastful Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania the right one, and full of extra elements, such as the challenges we talked about, the unexpected photomode, the presence of online rankings of all kinds, the heavy customization of all the characters, many cameos of other Sega icons (but not only) with which to replace the sweet primates of the game. And then there are the mini games, which are twelve but at least eight destined to make you spend respectable evenings in the company of those you deem appropriate to invite. Up to four of you can play challenging each other in Monkey War, where we will have to knock the opponent down with springing fists, in Target Monkeys, where to take a run-up and land gliding with the ball on one of the proposed targets, Golf Scimmie where for once you have to pit instead of avoiding them. Other mini games are less successful, but the average quality of ideas is very high.
Technically the game runs at 2160p, what we commonly call 4k, and at 60FPS which, however, also include some slowdown too.
CommentTested version PlayStation 5 Resources4Gaming.com
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is Sega's way of celebrating twenty years of the series. It is not a new game, but a box full of contents and extras that make this return a kind of party, where all the Sega characters and many "pocketed" of honor take the opportunity for a precious and colorful reunion. However, we are still talking about those who are essentially the first two Super Monkey Balls, with a level design in step with the times twenty years ago, but which today betrays all the limits of a console that has given us so much but which still has two decades on the shoulders.
- A classic of the video game and more
- Lots of levels and extras
- The mini games are as good as we remembered them and with friends it's great
- Some unacceptable slowdown
- The levels were designed with the limits of twenty years ago
- More comfortable as a mobile product?