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  1. Super Monkey Ball is a premise that was just crazy enough to work. Adorable little monkeys rolling around in plastic balls as you propel them through increasingly elaborate obstacle courses is simply an insane concept, and yet it spawned 20 years of arcade-style games. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania fondly looks back on those two decades by collecting levels from the original Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe and rolling them together into one massive collection. It's a charming celebration of the franchise, though not much of a step forward. Although there is a story mode here, there's not much storytelling happening in Banana Mania outside of some cutesy little cutscenes. Not that that matters much—the focus is obviously on the gameplay, and this game delivers an almost overwhelming amount of content. With hundreds of stages ranging from childishly simple to controller-breaking hard, Banana Mania offers a wealth of physics-based platformer challenges. Narrowly balancing your monkey ball across tiny strips of land or building up the momentum necessary to roll up to a high ledge is almost endlessly inventive and truly difficult at times. They can get frustrating, but they're also incredibly satisfying once you finish them. And if for some reason you need to push yourself with even greater challenges, there are bonus missions you can tackle such as finishing the level in under a certain amount of time or collecting every banana. These definitely aren't for the faint of heart though. In addition to story mode there are challenge levels, party games, and ranked challenges that let you compare your best times against players online. Just finishing every level in the game is a big task, and the replay value pushes things even further. The party games can be hit and miss though, especially because the physics in fan-favorite Monkey Target feel a bit off compared to the original game. In fact, the physics in the game overall don't feel quite the same, and while this does make some levels more challenging, only purists are likely to actually feel the difference. Instead, most players will just notice the high difficulty here. Banana Mania adds a few side features to the core Super Monkey Ball experience, though not all of them work perfectly. There's a helper mode which essentially acts as easy mode—you get more time to complete a level and even get guide arrows to point you toward the correct path. The only problem is that most levels aren't challenging due to time or labyrinthine design. Most of the time the challenge is balance, momentum, or aim, so helper mode isn't all that helpful most of the time. Banana Mania also includes camera controls to help you navigate around those tight paths that define Super Monkey Ball levels, though the camera movement is a bit clunky and can be intrusive in stages with a lot of walls. Banana Blitz's artwork is adorable and frankly pretty basic, but how much detail does a game like this need anyway. It's cute and colorful and fun for all ages, plus you can unlock different outfits—as well as different guest characters—to put your own spin on your monkey pilot. The remixed soundtrack is in the same boat. It's chipper and fun and probably won't stick with you after playing. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania brings together an incredible wealth of gameplay with hundreds of levels and tons of replay value. Not all of the changes or updates are perfect, but rolling around as a monkey in a plastic ball is still pretty charming 20 years after the first Super Monkey Ball game. Hopefully the developers can keep the ball rolling with a brand new adventure in the franchise's future. Rating: 7 out of 10 Monkeys
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