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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania Review (PS5)

These monkeys have a problem. Well, a number of problems, really, but the most important is that they were trapped in giant balls for no reason. And they are loved, these monkeys: Since the GameCube days Super Monkey Ball was popular (perhaps bafflingly), with increasingly declining returns from similar companies like Super Monkey Ball Adventure to the last Banana Flash HD.

However, here you have a working remake of PS2 and Xbox Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, itself a compilation of the original game and its sequel from 2005. The presentation has been revised, but the core action of the ball rolling monkey seems largely untouched. If you’ve never played Monkey Ball it’s a bit like those old wooden marble mazes where you tilt the play area to roll the ball, except there is a little monkey guy this time.

Removal of any kind of stakes is an interesting choice here; The life system has been abolished in favor of a simpler (and more contemporary) reliance on repetition. Unfortunately, the game quickly feels monotonous without a fail state or consistently skillful game. And this is not some “idiot” cretinism: when there is nothing to strive for, we don’t see that it makes much sense to persevere.

Thankfully, there are tons of items to unlock, from secret characters (including Sonic, Tails, and, ahem, Kazama Kiryu) to more skins and the usual mini-games. Unfortunately, the latter feel unpolished unfinished sometimes and we wondered why they bothered.

Even so, everything looks beautiful, moves smoothly and sounds exuberant as always. We’d say this is a must see for Monkey Ball fanatics, but then said fanatics are the ones who will notice the cracks more than anyone else. So we’re ultimately not sure who this is for. Newcomers may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

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