Monkey see, monkey do.
Monkey Ball Banana Splitz Got Right
- + Back to Basics Monkey Ball
- + Great visuals
- + Precise controls
Monkey Ball Banana Splitz Got Wrong
- - Disappointing mini-games
- - Awful load times
- - Clunky menus
- - What happened to Monkey Target?
Super Monkey Ball has struggled to recapture the magic that captivated us on the GameCube nearly a decade ago. The 3DS instalment got back on the right track despite a serious lack of content, and the Vita’s Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz (not to be confused with the Wii’s Banana Blitz) has moved to address that with a ‘back to basics’ approach.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz does away with the side attractions that have largely tarnished more recent games. It goes back to basics, and the result is the same simple, yet addictive gameplay that made the original two games so much fun. Monkey see, monkey do: that’s what Super Monkey Ball is all about. See the target, collect bananas and navigate a perilous stage within a minute to get there. Nothing more, nothing less.
As with the 3DS game, motion controls are an option that should be immediately ignored. Super Monkey Ball commands a level of precision that a gyro sensor simply cannot provide. It sounds good on paper, but in practice it requires the meticulous level of control only offered by the left analogue stick. None of the buttons are required. All you need to navigate the environment is one control stick; although it would have been nice if the right stick could have been used to maneuver the camera.
There’s an immediate difficulty spike as you progress that should be to the delight of eventual speed-runners who thrive on admiring their own improvement when confronted with a genuine challenge.
Veteran Monkey Ball players will blast through the basic and even normal levels, but there’s an immediate difficulty spike as you progress that should be to the delight of eventual speed-runners who thrive on admiring their own improvement when confronted with a genuine challenge.
The impressive level design is matched by a classic Monkey Ball soundtrack and sharp visuals that make it one of the prettier Vita games with its vibrant colour scheme, at least in the main game. The mini-games in the Party Mode take a more lax approach to their appearance.
However, it’s not all glamour, and it does little more than the 3DS version to return Super Monkey Ball to its former glory. The positives are undone by some horrendous loading times, unresponsive menus, constant saving prompts every two minutes and an underlying sense that it’s more of the same rather than a strive towards improvement.
While the core game is solid, the returning “best of” mini-games and slither of new additions provide mixed emotions. Monkey Target is a disappointing slimmed down reincarnation of its former self, while most of the others are only of interest if you accept the reliance on touch controls with games like Monkey Bowling, which transforms the screen into a bowling alley.
Love Maze is the standout of the newcomers. It tasks players with controlling two monkeys simultaneously on parallel stages using the left and right sticks to control each. However, it’s the exception rather than the rule as most of the mini-games are lesser versions of those we’ve seen in previous games.
With such little innovation and the improbability of ever recapturing the success of the 2001 original, I’d much rather have seen the GameCube classic ported to the PS Store at a discounted price. Actually, can that still happen?
The mini-games and main Monkey Ball mode offer vastly improved content compared to the 3DS game, which is complimented by the level editor and creator. Using the Vita’s camera and gyro sensor, a picture of your surroundings can be shaken up to create a decent unique level.
The Final Verdict
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is one of the better Monkey Ball games in recent times, from a franchise that has lost its way since amazing us a decade ago. Its back to basics approach with the core game, using the analogue stick, is successful in recapturing what Monkey Ball is all about. The level editor and “best of” mini-games compilation add the longevity that the 3DS version sorely missed, but the latter consists mostly of lesser versions of games we’ve seen before. Unfortunately what should have been non-issues stack up to hold Banana Splitz back from being Monkey Ball’s grand return and it still doesn’t come close to recapturing the magic of old. Nevertheless, it’s a solid game and will be appreciated by Super Monkey Ball fans that have stuck by the series.
By Ben Salter