Games: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania a 'greatest hits cover version' from the Sega primates' prime

Neil McGreevy

Anyone for Monkey Tennis?

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Multi)
By: Sega

SOMEONE at Sega must be a fan of Alan Partridge. A mere four years after Norwich's finest pitched Monkey Tennis to a BBC exec, the Japanese arcade kings served up said simian sport in Super Monkey Ball, which saw tiny chimps crammed inside plastic globes, rolling their merry way through a series of party games.

Following the Dreamcast's demise, Super Monkey Ball was Sega's first major franchise to bypass their own consoles entirely, landing on once-rival Nintendo's Gamecube to critical acclaim and spawning a glut of sequels.

And, while the chimp-flavoured mini-games have been a load of balls of late, Banana Mania celebrates SMB's 20th anniversary with a return to its early-noughties glory days. Curating 300 of the series' best stages and using modern tech to tart the chimps up more than the most aggressive cosmetics lab, Banana Mania is a greatest hits cover version from the primates' prime.

The main event is monkey-business as usual as players roll their banana-munchers through miniature golf-style obstacle courses in a giant ball, avoiding bottomless pits against the clock to reach the finish line. Its simple concept is matched by pitch-perfect controls and momentum – an area where Sega dropped the ball in more recent versions.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is easily the best Monkey Ball since the Gamecube original

In true Monkey Ball fashion, the schizophrenic difficulty on later stages will test the mettle of series vets, though younger players can now soothe the pain with slow-motion and extra time – even skipping trickier levels entirely.

The real draw, though, is Monkey Ball's 12 multiplayer mini-games culled from past glories. From bowling, golf, football and, of course, Monkey Tennis, up to four players can compete in a primate party.

Highlights including Monkey Race – a Mario Kart-esque dash to the finish line as rivals nip at your red puckered tush – though a gimped version of fan-favourite Monkey Target pales next to the original.

With candy shop visuals brighter than a baboon's bum and a techno soundtrack that sounds like it was composed by the Vengaboys at gunpoint, Banana Mania is peak Sega, with unlockable A-listers from the company's stable and online rankings for competition against the world's high-rollers.

Since trundling their way into gamers' hearts at the turn of the century, Sega's ball-trapped chimps have finally returned to form: Banana Mania is easily the best Monkey Ball since the Gamecube original, and evidence that the Beeb shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Alan's ideas. Now if we can only get Arm Wrestling with Chas n' Dave and Inner-City Sumo...

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

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