Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Is a Revelation

Go fast, get bananas.

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At the dawn of the 21st Century, Sega stumbled onto the start of what should have been an incredible new franchise. Released in 2001 for GameCube and in arcades, Super Monkey Ball was a breakaway hit, spawning over 20 sequels, spinoffs, and remakes. Unfortunately, most of those follow-up titles failed to live up to the original. Until now.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a revelation. The new Nintendo Switch platformer is equal parts adorable, ridiculous, and challenging fun. It's also a glass-shattering breakthrough for Sega. For 23 years, the publisher has been trying and failing to replicate the hyperactive magic of the original Super Monkey Ball. Now, it’s finally realized there's no need to mess with perfection.

Banana Rumble's fantastical environments made up of beaches, city skylines, and chocolate pudding mountains all look bright and delicious.

Sega

While Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble isn't technically a remake of the first Super Monkey Ball, it might as well be. Like that game, Banana Rumble's strength lies in its simple dream logic: You're a monkey in a vending machine toy ball and you have to roll around a series of increasingly elaborate maps to reach a goal before a ticking timer runs out. Along the way, you'll pick up golden bunches of bananas to earn Banana Points, which you can cash in for cute outfits and cosmetics like straw hats and a charcoal grill to place in the game's Juicy Island.

There, under palm trees and purple skies, you'll assist the new character Palette in her adventure to find the Legendary Banana and her missing dad. The way you do this is by cruising around the game’s complex maps. Just like 2002's Super Monkey Ball 2, the vague story mode really only exists to ease you into a world of talking monkeys.

If you want, you can skip these stilted cutscenes and head straight into the action. That's where Banana Rumble thrives, in the curly vines of its elaborate and pretty maps. Each pixel in the game vibrates with high energy. Banana Rumble's fantastical environments made up of beaches, city skylines, and chocolate pudding mountains all look bright and delicious. They make you want to push through all the times your monkey will inevitably perish, looking helpless and tender while spinning off of a 1000-foot drop.

You’re going to fall off the platform. A lot.

Sega

This infectious energy is what makes any game in the series worth playing. The best Monkey Ball games make you feel as single-minded as a hungry zoo animal: go fast, get bananas. Banana Rumble executes this successfully, thrusting you into a series of challenging maps and adding a new Spin Dash mechanic, a flaming boost that lets you speed up ramps and past opponents.

Also like the original games, Banana Rumble will test your ability to comprehend tilting, swirling, and moving 3D puzzles, while its laws of gravity bend to make you feel like anything is possible. Unlike the 2021 remake of the first three party games, which drew some fans' ire for what they felt were confusing physics, Banana Rumble retains both the thrilling unpredictability of the original's movement and its required precision. I quickly discovered that most of my ambitious ideas were possible — Spin Dashing through space to reach a faraway goal, like a dolphin dodging the waves, dropping down onto a pencil-thin ledge — but would all require perfect timing and momentum.

The gameplay is simple: pick up golden bunches of bananas to earn Banana Points.

Sega

It helps that Banana Rumble has a robust series of gameplay adjustments. You can adjust all camera presets, set your JoyCons' dead zones, customize your button configuration, and set camera tracking. If you'd like, you can also take advantage of the game's assistance features, which include a rewind button, checkpoints, and a Ghost Guide that outlines the way through the stage.

In this way, Banana Rumble provides approachable challenges for up to four co-op players or up to 16 online Battle Mode players. The game's five Battles range from Mario Kart-style racing to an explosive game of tag (it features actual bombs). Though they're all entertaining, each imbued with the lightweight indulgence of cotton candy, none are quite as memorable as the first Monkey Ball's beloved dogfight Monkey Target. But it's been 23 years since then. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is nostalgic, yes, but it's also an original.

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