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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz Review

Ever since their outstanding debut on the GameCube's Super Monkey Ball, AiAi, MeeMee and Baby have had many adventures, though not all greats; with their most recent 3DS escapades not quite impressing the majority especially since it supported the in-built gyro which rendered the 3D effects useless. The key was to keep the controls simple and make a great game around it, something the GameCube version nailed and it seems this Vita version has kept that in mind with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz.

Depending on how you want to play the idea is still the same, guide your little monkey through a twisty maze full of tight corners, balance beams and sudden drops, collecting bananas to gain extra lives as you scramble for the warp at the end of each level. This Vita version supports both the control stick and also use of the gyro to tilt the ball around the courses. The key to Monkey Ball is to remember you are not controlling the ball, but the world around it, with every tilt you make it's the world that tilts with you; the steeper the pitch of your tilt, the faster the monkey will roll. The added gyro controls do offer a fun alternative and at times it feels more comfortable, especially on some of the earlier tracks but for Monkey Ball aficionados you cannot beat the precise movement of the digital stick.

Not an awful lot has changed since the GameCube version; it's still a great game that still somehow harbours the same old bad points. Where some may see the overall difficulty as a challenge it can at times be very off-putting and seemingly impossible. Levels are grouped together as Beginner, Normal and Advanced. The first two really offer little challenge other than a few holes in the ground to avoid however the Advance levels offer a really sharp difficulty spike with it straight away introducing blind drops, seesaws and numerous other hazards to contend with that eat up your continues with ease. You can visit levels once unlocked via practice mode to master them, but to progress you need to complete each level from the start, which involves a lot of replay on the later levels.

Another bugbear is that after all these years there are still camera issues, with the automatic view taking ages to turn to let you see where you are going, a nightmare on some of the later levels with moving platforms, but just like the other versions, you can learn to compensate for this.

A big pull and where most of the replayability was found in the original was the group mini-games, especially Monkey Target - and it's back here, even including a multiplayer mode with a pass-the-controller style approach, allowing each player to take turns to glide your monkey to the target way off in the distance.

Utilizing the Vitas many control methods there are a couple of returning greats and a few new mini-games to play. The classic and very addictive Monkey Bowling returns where you hold the Vita vertically and flick the screen to power the monkey ball down the lane, tilting left and right with the gyro to fine tune the aim and add spin to the ball. Battle Billiards has you playing on a large billiards table full of holes and bump pegs; the aim is to try and stay alive and collect and hold onto a flag, not easy when all of the other players are trying to do the same thing. The last of the more enjoyable mini-games is the Love Maze; where two monkeys are tethered together by love and each have their own maze to negotiate, if they separate too far from one another the love tether snaps. Though easily played on your own, grabbing a second player to use the other control stick and move the second monkey around makes for a great co-op mode that offers plenty of mazes to play through.

Whilst not as fun there are a few other mini-games which will help you pass some time. Monkey Bingo for instance will garner a few replays, having you play bingo by filling in the holes using your Monkey Ball. In addition, Pixie Hunt will see you use the Vita's camera to locate items of a certain colour in your surrounding area and tap the screen to grab items. Other mini games include Number Ball where you have to remove ball from a table by tapping them in number order as fast as possible and finally Monkey Rodeo, where you tap the rear touch panel to make your monkey move around and collect bananas before the other monkeys do.

One of the newer features for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is the Edit Mode, allowing you to snap some photos for the game to monkey around with and create a new course. When it works it is fun but it's not 100%, with the game making some really random courses that have no real relation to the original picture. This mode does have some sharing options but don't expect a huge catalogue of user created maps to download as this is likely to be a once tried, forever forgotten type of addition.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is a return to form for our little monkeys, offering a decent amount of single and multiplayer modes but with such a high difficulty spike so early on in the game it may end up being yet another uncompleted game in the pile.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

Review Policy (Version tested: PS Vita)

Edited On 23 Oct, 2012

( 3 )
Dead's avatar
Dead 4 years ago
Sounds pretty good, always loved the monkeyball games, even the 3DS version was pretty good if you didn't use the gyro controls.
Birdorf's avatar
Birdorf 4 years ago
Nice to see it come out with a budget price point.
Anonymous user's avatar
Rachael 4 years ago
I enjoyed the older ones but downloaded the ones they made for the windows phone and i thought that the tilt controls were rubbish. This looks like one that i will be enjoying again just like the originals :D

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