Back when Amusement Vision were in charge of the Monkey Ball series, it was on the top of its game. The arcade classic had you tilting a stage to guide a monkeyed ball to the goal. Such a simple premise, but also one that proved addictive. It was a hit in the arcades, so naturally they ported it to the current consoles, which also received positive feedback from both gamers and critics alike. A sequel was made a year later, straying away from the skill based platforming of the original; instead, it opted to focus more on gimmicks and was also seen as a success. 

Unfortunately, the Amusement Vision division was later merged into Sega, and the series has never been the same since. Some of the games weren’t necessarily terrible, they just didn’t quite hit the same spot as the originals. Even the recent entry, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, suffers from terrible controls and some questionable design choices that make it more frustrating than fun.

Fast forward to the present day. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Super Monkey Ball,  Sega announced that they would be remaking the first two entries for modern consoles, with some quality of life changes and additions to breathe some life back into the series. I was excited, yet nervous. After all, it’s not like they have the best track record.

So, how did they do with the remake? Rather well, I must say.

… albeit with some caveats.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania really prides itself on being both old and new at the same time. Booting up the game is somewhat akin to booting up Banana Blitz HD: you’re quickly accosted with bright yellow colours and a somewhat catchy menu theme. A far cry from the arcade-like simplicity of the original entries. Whilst it won’t exactly alleviate your initial fears, it does present itself rather well. It has a simple elegance that’s both organised, yet stylish. The menu boils down to a neat little row of animated icons for each of the key areas, and are quick and easy to navigate.

Your first entry point, of course, will be the Main Game menu where you can see the gourmet banana dishes that lie in store for you. The Story Mode from Super Monkey Ball 2 is placed up front and centre, but you can also tackle the challenge modes from the first two games too. Each have three initial difficulty settings, all with unique courses, but two more difficulties can be unlocked by beating the initial three. If you need to brush up on your skills, or want to set a personal record time for a single level, the practice mode will allow you to do so. Finally, there’s the mysterious Special Mode, which have some brand new additions for you to tackle – at a price. But, more on those later.


The Story Mode offers a good starting point for beginners, as it will guide you through the fundamentals of Monkey Ball with a reasonably solid difficulty curve. It has ten worlds to play through and you can come and go as you please. Things start out simple in the first couple of worlds, but as you reach the halfway point you will come up against some pretty tough – but fun – challenges. Each world is also accompanied by its own unique aesthetic – from volcanoes to washing machines; these are determined by the world’s cutscene, which is where you will notice the first major change to the game. Whilst the original story mode had lengthy, yet silly, cutscenes showing the nefarious exploits of Dr Bad Boon, the remake instead opts for some jarringly static images instead. With no voices, nor subtitles, it all seems rather lifeless and it’s really hard to understand what’s going on – even for veterans of the original game. Seasoned monkey ballers may recognise the occasional plot point, like an army of monkey clones, but it’s a poor replacement for what came before.

Despite this poor start, things get off onto a better paw once your ball drops. Everything seems familiar, yet different, with the darker tones of the original replaced with a much more vibrant colour palette. The old world designs translate well to this modern look, and it suits the game perfectly. Some of the finer details may have been removed to give everything more of a childlike charm, but it mostly adds to the experience rather than takes away. My only real gripe is that you no longer see the next course floating in the sky, which I always found endearing in the original – but I can live without it. The music too is different, but it’s also really good. It’s as catchy as ever, even turning into dubstep at points for some reason. It may not be for some people, but personally I preferred to stick with it rather than switching back to the old soundtrack (which is available in the Deluxe package or purchasable separately). It’s upbeat and funky, and provides the perfect accompaniment to your inevitable countless failures.

Where things may prove slightly more divisive are with the physics and the controls. As my main worry going in, I am pleased to report that they work well for the most part. Controls are far tighter than Banana Blitz HD and the added camera controls really help with some of the levels (I’m looking at you, Exam-C). There are some stages where lining up the camera is easier with the free camera mode disabled, but for the most part I found keeping it turned on was more beneficial. Physics have been mostly replicated authentically, feeling similar to how you remember them – but they’re not quite the same. Acceleration, for a start, is a tad faster, making it easier to pick up speed without needing to use diagonal movements (like the speedrunners do). This, of course, means that a lot of shortcuts and tricks require some tweaked timing to pull off – and a small handful aren’t even possible. No doubt this will annoy some experienced ballers, but I found the change to be slightly refreshing. The only real control issue I had was with some of the tightrope walks in the game. They’re a lot harder and require more care than in the older game, which I believe is purely down to the lack of analogue grooves in modern controllers. They’re still possible, and some of the levels with tighter time limits have been given an increase as a way to balance this and reduce the frustration. 




Banana Mania has a variety of unlockable special game modes to test your skill.

GOLDEN BANANA MODEImageMonkeys love bananas, as we all know. Over the course of 10 stages, you’ll need to collect every single one before reaching the goal. They start off easy, but they get tough towards the end!

ImageOh no! Dr Bad Boon has poisoned the bananas! Collecting even a single one will trigger a game over, so be sure no avoid them all – shame they’re in such inconvenient places!

The level selections here are all top notch, and the courses are all challenging and fun to get through.

Image23 of those most obnoxious levels in the game have been adjusted to make them a bit more tolerable. If you really want to play all of these stages in their unaltered form, then here you go!

ImageDeluxe contains 46 brand new levels, and they’re all here. There’s some pretty good levels included in here, too!

ImageEver wondered what it’d be like if you started from the end and travelled backwards? This interesting mode only contains 10 levels, but probably my favourite of the bunch.


What made the original games stand out from the later entries lies in the level design. Each level has a degree of creativity and love that has remained mostly absent since the GameCube days. Whether it be rolling across guitar wire, avoiding a giant comb, or even navigating a giant SEGA logo, you’ll have a lot of fun trying to find your way to the goal. Not all of the levels are winners, with the more experimental sequel having more than its fair share of irritating levels. That being said, the creativity also means that there are also more inventive stages that outdo anything seen in the original. For every stinker like ‘Launchers’, you get something fantastic like ‘8 Bracelets’. Thankfully, the annoying ones don’t appear often enough to cause much of a problem – especially as you now have unlimited lives at your disposal. The only exception to this is the final world in the story mode, which seems to have an endless stream of annoying levels: a mix of obtuse mazes, janky tech, and tight time limits. It’s a poor end to a solid story mode, and it’s a shame these levels weren’t tweaked slightly to make them a little bit more palatable. On the bright side, the game comes with some accessibility options that can help make these awful levels a bit less of a pain – including an option to skip them entirely. Bye, bye, ‘Invisible’! See ya later, ‘Catwalk’!

The challenge modes, on the other hand, offer a uniquely different experience. These are designed to be beaten in one sitting, and range from the short and easy Beginner Challenge to the lengthy and difficult Expert Challenge. Each set of challenges contain their own unique levels, so it’s worth trying each just to play something new. In the original games, beating challenge mode without losing a life (or continue in the case of Expert) would unlock an extra group of stages that would be playable at the end – a set of more difficult stages for those that had mastered the base ones. With lives scrapped, these levels now follow on from the main stages. The problem is that these stages were designed as a reward for mastering the challenge mode, and as such are much harder by comparison. Sticking them at the end with no unlock condition results in a rather jarring spike in difficulty. The Advanced Challenges suffer the most from this change, as the difference in difficulty between the main set and the extras are vast – so much so that it makes the mode far less fun to play through. Expert fares the best from the change, as the extra stages aren’t really much harder than the ones before, but the sheer amount of levels on offer make it somewhat of a long slog to get through in one sitting. I think an unlockable Extra difficulty containing all the Extra stages together would have been a better choice. Sure, you can use the sleep function of the Switch to take a break, but you’re still locked into the mode until you’re done with it.


As aforementioned, Banana Mania completely does away with the lives system, which raises an important question: what’s the point of bananas in the remake? The answer is…. points! Not just boring points either, banana points act as the currency of the game which can be used to purchase things in the store. From extra characters and costumes, to special camera renders (for budding photograpers) and game modes, there’s a lot to buy. The clothing options are Sonic Forces level of quality, in that they’re largely generic and forgettable, but unlocking it all becomes quite addictive. There are new characters to unlock too, which are a nice touch, but the non-monkey characters lack a lot of polish as none of them contain voice acting. It’s a little disappointing, as playing as them just feels weirdly silent. They do have their own collectibles too, which replace the bananas, but it’s not enough to feel like a worthwhile addition. There are more to buy as paid DLC, but considering that they are priced at €4.99 each and are just as unpolished, they’re probably not worth splashing out for unless you really want to play as Hello Kitty.

What you’ll probably want to buy first instead are the special game modes, which offer a completely new way to play the game. Golden Banana, Dark Banana, and Reverse Modes offer ten stages each, and they remix some of the classic stages in different ways to offer a new challenge. Golden Banana is probably the easiest one, with the difficulty being finding optimal routes in the mazelike levels, so you can collect all the bananas before your time runs out. Dark Banana is the complete opposite, with most levels being both extremely stressful and rewarding in their extreme brutality Reverse Mode is probably my pick of the bunch, even if that’s also on the easier side – playing levels backwards is far more satisfying than it has any right to be. The main issue with all of them though is just how short they are: they all offer such unique ideas that it’s a shame they weren’t fleshed out a little bit more. Having twenty stages that range from easy to hard would have felt far more satisfying compared to the mere taster we get here. They’re still a lot of fun, and help bump up the lengthy playtime even more. The remaining modes allow you to play the Super Monkey Ball Deluxe stages and the original unchanged versions of the levels that were tweaked for the remake.

If you think things end there, you’re wrong. There are achievements to earn (which will grant you more banana points), a ranking mode that keeps track of your total times for each challenge, and the party games – which can be played solo or with friends. There are twelve in total, but their actually quality is a little bit of a mixed bag. There are some cracking ones here like billiards and golf, but other games like the dogfighting and racing end up being a tad dull. They offer a nice break from the main game, but you probably won’t be sticking with them for extended periods. Unfortunately, this also extends to Monkey Target too – a game that provided hours of entertainment in the originals, but was spoiled in subsequent entries. Controlling a flying monkey, the aim is to close the wings of your ball in order to land on the target below. Fun in principle, but the problem is that the physics and controls are way off in Banana Mania. Not only do you get a fixed boost at the end of the ramp, maintaining speed and distance is a lot harder than in the classic titles. As someone who played my fair share of Target back in the day, I was saddened to see that it has been completely ballsed up, if you’ll pardon the pun. On paper, this remade version should be a hit as it contains the original stages along with an enhanced version of the wheel of misfortune, but it ends up being a miss instead. Thankfully this is something a patch could resolve, so we will see if they fix it further down the line. 


I’m really glad that Sega didn’t mess up Banana Mania. It has a new lick of paint, with some tweaks and additions that help make this an excellent return to form. Despite some gripes with the challenge modes and Monkey Target, there’s a massive amount of content that should keep any fan of the series happy. With the series director now gone, I just hope that future games can live up to this standard.