Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble review – Rock and roll

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a solid new entry in the long-running Monkey Ball series.
super monkey ball banana rumble review

You usually know what you’re going to get with a Monkey Ball game. It’s in the title – you’re a tiny little monkey, you’re in a ball, and you’re rolling around. That’s why it’s so nice to see Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble trying something a little bit different, shaking up the formula with a fresh new adventure mode, multiplayer party elements, and the shining star of this game: a Spin Dash move for exploiting shortcuts, and speeding ahead.

As in past Monkey Ball games, you spend Banana Rumble rolling AiAi through various themed stages, each with their own complex pathways. The overarching narrative is light – AiAi is working with his monkey friends and family to gather seven unique artefacts with magical abilities – but this serves to give form and shape to your journey, as you rush through cities, beaches, circuses, and other locales.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is particularly strong in its approach to diversity of locales, and their many challenges. There’s linear raceway-style rolling stages in this game, but then there’s also weirdly textured, blocky maps, puzzles with dynamic, moving elements, and even levels where multiple levers are required to advance. Each new world introduces neat quirks, which makes the race to gathering each artefact feel snappy, and consistently engaging.

Spin Dash to victory

spin dash super monkey ball gameplay
Screenshot: GamesHub

The new Spin Dash mode also adds layers to your adventuring. This is a charged dash that boosts your movement speed – and it can be deployed at any point in your roll. You can use it to fling your ball off high obstacles, to cross great distances at speed, or to fly off the stage, in the hopes of finding the goal far below you. It’s a very nifty move, and one that will no doubt be a hit with speed runners.

Using the Spin Dash, I was able to skip great swathes of stages, and hit seemingly impossible timing goals for high scores. Often, attempts to game the system will mean you shoot yourself straight into the void, but Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is kind to experimentation, so you can traverse each level as you desire, flicking yourself forward in increasingly brash, confident moves. Once you understand the system and how it reshapes gameplay, you can blast through stages, hitting every special goal criteria along the way.

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It’s worth noting the game’s main story is also fairly packed with content, so even if you Spin Dash your way to success, you’ll still find plenty of game left to conquer. There’s a generous array of stages in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, with each world comprising ample levels, and the story containing a few neat twists that keep the narrative thrumming.

super monkey ball banana rumble game
Screenshot: GamesHub

In the later stages of Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, you’ll naturally hit a wall and need to build up your skillset to overcome tense, intricate puzzles – but even in this frustration, Banana Rumble is light-hearted and encouraging enough to keep you moving. (There is also an assist mode if you’re really struggling.)

There’s also additional challenge stages waiting after you complete the main game, providing ample opportunity to test your skills and your patience. You can even activate the game’s motion sensor mode, which relies on controller tilting, if you’re really, really looking to work your muscles, and feel out the game’s tension.

Party rocking and rolling

Once you’ve blasted your way through the game’s main story, Banana Rumble still has ample gameplay to offer, with an array of special party modes that remix your Monkey Ball abilities. There’s a race mode to challenge your friends in pseudo-Mario Kart style (there’s even a Rainbow Road-like stage), a banana collection mini-game, multiplayer robot fights, and a bunch of other mini-games to keep you occupied.

Race Mode is particularly good, and you can get fair mileage out of jumping in and streaming down various tracks, particularly with Spin Dash letting you bump and boost your way through obstacles. I’d actually love to see this mode expanded in future – I can certainly see potential in competitive Monkey Ball races.

super monkey ball banana rumble review
Screenshot: GamesHub

Beyond this party mode, you can also spend time in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble customising your version of AiAi, with a range of (non-paid) cosmetics earned by completing levels and hitting special goals. This is a minor feature, but getting to dress up AiAi is a nice touch, and I enjoyed rolling through stages in star sunglasses and a racing suit.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble really lets you flex on ’em, and for that reason – but not only that reason – I had a blast with this game. It feels like a solid step forward in the Monkey Ball series, and one that packs in enough novelty to refresh the franchise’s ever-appealing ball rolling action. AiAi is a timeless hero, and he continues to charm in the modern era.

Four stars: ★★★★

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer: Catch & Release
Publisher: Humble Games
Release Date: 25 June 2024

A code for Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are scored on a five-point scale.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.