Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Medium: Digital/Cart
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Another entry in the beloved Super Monkey Ball franchise is upon us, headed exclusively to the Nintendo Switch as a nice way to start the summer season! Your favorite characters return in a whole new set of levels, worlds, and story (not that it’s anything to write home about, but it’s fun). The classic Monkey Ball jank remains, making an experience that just pushes you to want to learn each level more and more to complete it as fast as possible.

I know one of the biggest things Monkey Ball fans want is gameplay and levels more akin to the GameCube games, and boy are some of these levels brutal for your objectives. Some levels that feel like you can clear them in five seconds have par times of three seconds. The addition of the new ability “Spin Dash” really forces you to think a bit more of how you can use the level layouts and momentum to your advantage. I found that levels will often want you to catapult yourself as far and as fast as you can specifically with that ability to try and meet that time requirement for the bonus objective. Spin Dash enables you to build up a bunch of speed a la Sonic the Hedgehog and propel yourself at incredible speeds in whatever direction you choose, which you’ll see marked with an arrow based on your left stick inputs. It makes for a surprisingly interesting time wanting to push how fast you can clear literally anything.

New mechanics aside, I do think some of the game suffers from the camera. I’m not all that familiar with older games, but from what I know it was a bit of a struggle in older titles too. There are multiple levels that are severely hampered by a lackluster camera, as it feels like some full sections of the track are hidden out of view and you won’t really see them until you’re already on or over them. I don’t necessarily think it’s a big deal, but it certainly can get frustrating after a while.

Speaking of things that get frustrating, maybe it’s a problem due to Switch hardware, but having the game run at 30fps and require such rampant moving of the stage and camera are so headache inducing. I could not sit down and give this game more than maybe an hour at most per session, and maybe it’s just a me problem, but I was getting headaches and dizziness after about the 30 to 45 minute mark. I have to mention that as a word of caution for anybody with motion sickness, because it might be even worse for you than it was for me.

Those things aside, I think visually the game looks great. The team behind Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble did a great job at using the Switch hardware to make the game look really pretty. The colors and art direction are heavily stylized to really pop. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore but they manage to put the most profitable franchise on the planet in visuals and consistency on the framerate. Sure, I think 30fps isn’t great for this game, but it’s consistent and I didn’t notice any drops unlike a certain monster collecting game we all know and (maybe) love.

The music is actually fantastic in Banana Rumble, I must say. Every single world was introducing me to a new song that was nothing short of a bop. You know how some games just have soundtracks that you don’t even realize you’re vibing with? Yeah, that’s what Super Monkey Ball hits you with this time. Repeatedly going through levels over and over is a fun task when you’ve got such a fantastic soundtrack in your ears for the whole thing.

If you love your character choices but wish you had a bit fresher of an appearance, don’t fret because there is a shop you can spend your “banana points” in to buy new apparel for your favorite characters! While playing, I noticed there were quite a lot of options for customization for my monkey, and I didn’t realize quite how much I had the option for. From dozens of shirts, pants, hats, and more, I don’t think you’ll find it hard to get just the right look for you.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble also offers a DLC called the SEGA Pass. Included are 6 new characters and 30+ SEGA-themed apparel items for you to choose from. Don’t worry though, there are still unlockable characters and whatnot as you play the main game. Your DLC characters include classic versions of fan favorite characters Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose, as well as Beat from Jet-Set Radio and Axel from Crazy Taxi.

Wanna play Super Monkey Ball with your friends? Well don’t worry, because the developers have you covered in some very nice ways. Not only do you have your typical split-screen couch multiplayer, you can hop online and play with your friends there too! Online isn’t limited to only four players, so don’t worry about keeping the lobby small. Whether it’s Adventure mode, Race mode, or the Battle modes, you can be sure there is plenty of fun to be had with your friends. I got to play online with some other reviewers and PR staff, and it was a blast. Competing with others in the Race mode is some of the most fun I had with the game, and I hope you will too!

All-in-all, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a great time, albeit held back by the same lackluster camera the series has always had and the framerate causing some issues, but otherwise it’s a very solid title.

Sega provided us with a Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Switch code for review purposes.

Score: 8