Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble review: Banana-rama and multiplayer drama

We’re in the midst of a Super Monkey Ball renaissance, as Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is the third entry in the series for the Nintendo Switch. Each building on the strength of the previous one, this new era has consisted of remakes, but finally, a new entry is pushing the series forward.

After Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD and Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, Banana Rumble is stuffed with fresh things for fans to enjoy.

SEGA promises hundreds of new levels, a bevy of new banana-based battle games, and even some fun changes to the core gameplay like the addition of a spin dash. So with so much to see and do, it might actually be tough to figure out whether this new battle-focused entry is a real Rumble in the Jungle, or if the appeal has worn off and left us with a Banana Fumble.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble key details

  • Price: $49.99 | £39.99
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: June 25, 2023
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch

It’s not what you do it’s the way you do it

A type of reverse-platformer, or at least an interesting spin on the genre, Super Monkey Ball is a bit like moving a marble across a level. Just as you cannot control a marble, here you do not control the monkeys (as such), instead tilting the level around them to inform their movement.

Now, this is all very tricky but addictive, and the quick-fire nature of these stages makes it an exhilarating thrill to continually throw yourself at these levels, despite dozens of failures.

There is one element with control, however, as this new entry introduces the idea of a spin dash. Yup, Sonic fans might be familiar with this one, as you press A to charge your move, then release it after you have reached the desired amount of charge, propelling your monkey forward with force.

What starts as a simple and pleasant adventure soon accelerates into a different beast. 

You begin guiding these sweet monkeys to a goal over a slightly wobbly platform, propped up with safety barriers Then, before long these monkeys are being thrust forward like an Olympic shotput, while the stage is barely bigger than two pieces of tagliatelle, and even then there are bumpers and moving platforms waiting to lead your poor monkey mate to their doom.

It’s frantic, it’s terrifying, but the crux is the satisfaction of the gameplay, as the monkeys themselves feel great to control, moving with weight and purpose.

A cruel summer for Simians

A screenshot from Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble shows a monkey moving towards a switch

With its bright art style and joyfully adorable cast of monkeys, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is designed to be a children’s game. But, the devious design of some of the later levels made me jealous of some of my friends currently playing easy games like Elden Ring.

This is a huge new suite of levels for fans to enjoy, and thankfully, there are some real highlights among the bunch. Even the beginning levels add some fun new mechanics – but the new spin dash technique has made the developers approach things in a fresh light.

While the Super Monkey Ball series isn’t quite up there with Crysis for visual impact, it still looks lovely thanks to a great design and gorgeous choice of colors. The different styles in each world are great, with some traditional worlds like a stone or candy design giving way to some more… grandiose stages later on that look really impressive.

It all runs at a silky smooth 60 fps, which is exactly what you want with this sort of sensitive gameplay, though there is a dip in performance when playing multiplayer. 

Super Monkey Ball has always been about finding shortcuts, and the challenge times for each stage often demand you find them. But the spin dash allows you to quickly propel yourself forward, instead of slowly building momentum by moving the stage, allowing you to use lips or other raised edges/platforms to jump across the stage with ease.

Initially, when starting up Banana Rumble, the game didn’t feel quite as responsive as Banana Mania but a few settings adjustments brought things in line. As soon as things clicked in place, I adored this mechanic and the new levels were begging for me to use it.

For the main solo adventure mode, I am seriously impressed with the massive amount of levels, the different ideas spread across the world, and some interesting and gorgeous designs for the levels and worlds themselves.

Any Monkey Ball veteran will find it tough to get to the end, and even then, there are three challenges in each stage waiting to truly test you. These include a time trial, a hidden golden banana, and a mission to collect a select amount of bananas – all of which also demand you finish the level to complete the task.

A split in the gameplay

A screenshot from Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble shows a monkey being hit by an item

Adding to the already impressive number of things to do are a series of Battle or multiplayer modes. Previous entries in the series ordinarily have a few minigames for players to enjoy, but things have been kicked up a notch this time, with online gameplay and even a season of rewards.

Much like Mario Kart’s infamous Battle Mode, whether you want to play locally or online, you can throw yourself into some intense matches with up to four players in local multiplayer, or up to 16 in larger online matches.

During the multiplayer matches, the chaotic nature of the games really comes through, but there is enough restraint to stop it from feeling like you’re just constantly falling off the stage.

Other modes include a banana collecting game, which is exactly what you think. Then, Ba-Boom is a game of hot potato, where you desperately try not to explode. Robot Smash has you throwing yourself into obstacles with the new spin dash, and the more robots you defeat the more points you gain.

Finally, my favorite of the modes is Goal Rush, where you repeatedly travel through a short level, trying to move through one set of goalposts to gain points for your team. An easy goal is just 10 points or something similar, but a few daring tracks will reward your skills with much more.

A screenshot from Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble shows four player splitscreen

Ba-Boom is my least favorite, not quite capturing what I love about Monkey Ball, but I got a lot of fun out of the other modes. If you play online with random opponents, you also earn points for the season pass, unlocking a steady stream of new cosmetics to help your monkey look the business.

There’s even a Lucky Monkey Lottery gacha machine that rewards you with a prize once per day, so long as you play at least one online match. The progression feels good, even if you don’t come first, and between the fun of online matches and the urge to unlock more, I’m really excited to head back into this mode when more players are rolling in.

However, the season prizes feel a little lackluster, and the lack of some older mini-games like bowling or billiards is sorely felt. I hope future seasons spice things up with more exciting cosmetics and some of the more silly game modes.

Plus, while the visuals can just about keep up when playing in solo mode, things start to deteriorate when more players join the fray. Thankfully the framerate stays somewhat consistent, but the graphical fidelity drops quite a lot when playing with others, especially in handheld mode.

It’s not a deal breaker, and you can still see everything you need to see to play the game, but it’s noticeable and the drop in framerate can definitely affect gameplay. Considering multiplayer is fun – but not amazing – it’s a shame to also see it hampered with performance woes.

I want you back

A screenshot from Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble shows a customization menu

I’ve been really impressed both with the quantity and quality of gameplay in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, and there is even quite a lot to unlock as you progress. As well as the steady stream of levels, you can find outfits for your characters and different balls for them to roll around in.

These are cute – if lacking a little – but give players something to do with the many bananas and points accumulated through normal gameplay.

It’s great to have more options, especially as each character has their own balance of weight, spin, speed, etc. This makes it fun to find your preferred gameplay style, but it’s a bit of a bummer if you prefer one of the new characters and have to stare at the single outfit they possess.

The Super Monkey Ball games have been steadily increasing in price in the last few years, with Banana Rumble more expensive than Banana Mania, which was more expensive than Banana Blitz before it. Fine, there’s a lot of new content here, that’s absolutely deserved.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble may not take any money for its online mode or the season pass but there is an enormous library of paid DLC, with additional playable characters from SEGA’s iconic history, and over a dozen customization options.

At the time of writing, each character – such as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and even Jet Set Radio’s Beat and Crazy Taxi character Axel – costs around $4.99 each. Many characters like Sonic, Knuckles, and even Kiryu and more were included in the price of the previous entry Banana Mania.

Players can buy a SEGA pass to shave something off the price of all these additional characters, but ultimately anyone hoping to pick up all of the unlockable options through DLC will be paying through the nose.

If I hadn’t found the main game’s offerings so lukewarm I wouldn’t be quite so bothered, but it feels like the best customization options have been gouged out of the game this time around in the hopes of making extra profit.

Verdict – 3/5

The first new entry in the Super Monkey Ball franchise in over a decade, Banana Rumble feels like a smart move for this series, bringing in the sort of chaotic online multiplayer that has given titles like Fall Guys so much success. It works well here, and I adored my moments of madness against over a dozen players online across the world.

Ultimately, despite some criticisms, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a thrilling return to form for the series and is stuffed with fresh content and new ideas. A massive solo mode offers enough challenge for months of monkey-madness, and the online Battle Mode could just be the shot in the arm this franchise needs to progress forward.

Whether you want to enjoy some challenging platforming, have fun with friends, or just unwind with some really silly battles, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble has charm in spades and enough content to keep you going for months. I just hope the multiplayer and some customization options improve.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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