Oh Super Monkey Ball, there was a time I was both in love with the series but always on the verge of breaking something. The first time I in fact player a Super Monkey Ball game was on the Game Boy Advance. Can you imagine trying to complete the expert levels using just that crappy d-pad that was on the handheld. To say it was infuriating is a complete understatement, once leading to the GBA taking flight across the room and coming head to head with the adjacent wall. But over the past decade AiAi and pals have lost it’s fun factor as the ball kept rolling. Now hoping to recreate it’s magic on its new handheld, does Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz reach its target or does or does it slide out of bounds?
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is made up of two modes essentially: monkey ball and party mode. Obviously the main mode in this game is the monkey ball mode. Here you tale the role of either AiAi or his pals to take on over 100 levels of increasing difficulty. For those that are familiar with the series will see some returning levels from the earlier iterations but there are some new and quite challenging.
In a game like this, controls are everything. Thankfully the brilliant analogue sticks on the PlayStation Vita help the game feel precise. You never feel like you fall off the level because controls aren’t good enough but rather it was your doing. Even slight movements work exceptionally well for the later levels. There was genuinely never a time where I felt as though the game was being cheap or that the controls were letting me down; I failed because I did something wrong and that is actually a good feeling, something that you can learn from and improve from. Next time, slowing down at certain sections or knowing just how thin a certain path is.
Still the frustration kicks in like previous games but it’s because you want to progress, not that the game is hindering you in some way. If you are good at the game it won’t take too long to complete every level but you will be stumped by certain levels as you progress. Thankfully though, the difficulty spike isn’t as drastic as previous games in the series. You will feel the difficulty ramp up as you go but it never smacks you in the face.
Unfortunately there is one aspect that frustrates your playtime that’s not because of the levels and that’s the camera. You still cannot control the camera yourself and the game likes to always be behind the ball which means sometimes you can’t see what’s in front of you until it’s too late.
But the game doesn’t give you the option of playing the levels. You can also create levels and take pictures to put them into the game. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the fun factor that games like LittleBigPlanet have but it may create a small community and some fun levels in the process.
The second part of the game is essentially mini-games. This may sound like a distraction but it’s just as bulky in terms of content as the main portion of the game. There are some of the classics here like target and bowling but there are some new ones and ones that feel at home on the PlayStation Vita. The mode I was surprised at just how good it was the mini-game called love maze. In this mode you take control of two monkeys in two balls that are tethered together. Both of them but male it through different mazes, or levels but must remain a certain distance from each other. Move too far apart and the tether is broken resulting in a fail. You control each money with an analogue stick each. In the beginning it’s straight forward with both monkeys moving along the same type of path but as the levels progress, they become more challenging not only in your hand-eye co-ordination skills but also in your tactics as to when you should move each monkey. It’s fun and engaging and enjoyed all the levels that were included and although it was a healthy amount, the mode was so much fun that I just simply wanted more.
Classic modes like target and bowling are still just as fun but there are a couple of modes that aren’t as fun. Pixie hunt uses the PlayStation Vita’s camera to capture different colours and then utilising the touch screen, you touch the coloured balls while avoiding the asteroid type objects.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is not only a game well suited to the PlayStation Vita but a game that brings the series back on track. It’s engaging, really good looking, with colours really standing out on the screen, and offers great gameplay that’s both easy to pick up and play and challenge you regardless of your abilities. Super Monkey is definitely back on track but still needs something to push the series forward.