Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz PlayStation Vita Review
Publisher - SEGA – Developer - Amusement Vision – Genre - Puzzle – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
Sometimes the simplest ideas are some of the best. Taking a cast of cartoon monkeys and placing them inside balls to roll around the levels is one of these simple but well executed ideas. The original GameCube game, which was released back in 2001, is certainly a game that is fondly remembered by many.
Having already appeared on many formats over the years, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is the first game in the series to appear on Sony’s Vita handheld. Like all the colourful and charismatic games before it, Banana Splitz takes a simple idea and rolls with it, and, yes, that terrible pun was very much intended.
Some haven’t liked the direction the series has taken since the first game, with these people wanting a more pure Super Monkey Ball game, and, with its more back to basics approach, Banana Splitz may very well be that game. Like the original, the game concentrates on rolling a monkey in a ball from the start to the finish, assuring that you keep the happy monkey from falling off the edge of the level, and, while the game itself is very tricky, there’s nothing that crops up to complicate matters too much to ruin the purity of it all.
Banana Splitz’s challenge mode presents you with over 100 brand new levels for you to happily roll your way through, with levels split into beginner, normal and advanced. Seasoned players will very likely get through the beginner and normal levels with little problem, although the advanced levels are something else, and many will probably have to plug away for quite some time to clear the lot. With each lot of 30 bananas earning you an extra life, you’ll certainly want to aim to pick up as many as possible.
There are a number of control options, with the possibility to use whichever of Vita’s sticks to roll around with. There’s also gyroscope controls, although the motion controls feel more imprecise than the classic stick controls, which are arguably the best way to play the Super Monkey Ball games.
Outside of the challenge mode there’s the return of the popular party mode. Amongst the eight included games is the much loved Monkey Target, although it’s sadly a shadow of its former self, with less depth and options. One of my favourites is Love Maze, in which two tethered monkeys have to make it to the end of each level without severing their connection, and you or another player control each monkey with a single stick. Monkey Bowling on the other hand is played with Vita held vertically, and makes use of the touch screen to toss the ball down the lane and you can add spin by moving Vita in the required direction, which are all sensible uses of the handhelds toolset. Another example of the games included in the party mode is Monkey Rodeo, of which makes use of the rear touch pad of Vita to bounce your monkey around, although this feels much more awkward than it should. The party mode can be played locally via pass the Vita for some modes, while ad-hoc or online options are also a possibility if you can actually find someone to play against. I had difficulty finding others, although in my little experience it certainly appears to be very smooth when played online.
There’s also an edit mode, in which you can snap a photo with Vita, and then the game automatically turns it into a level. It feels more gimmicky than anything else, and I’m sure that many players would prefer to create their own levels from scratch. In all honesty, the edit mode is a rather throwaway feature.
With its bright colours and smooth look, Banana Splitz looks lovely on Vita’s screen, and it’s certainly one of those games that could cheer you up. It’s just a shame that getting through the menus takes longer than it should, and I do think that things could have been better laid out than they are.
It’s very welcome that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is a return to a purer Super Monkey Ball game, although the rather clunky menus and the butchering of Monkey Target are sore points. Still, to many this will be the best Monkey Ball game in quite some time and will certainly go towards restoring the “Super” part of the title in the eyes of some.