Release Date: October 23, 2012
ESRB: E for Everyone
Although it now feels like Super Monkey Ball has been around forever, it only came into the gaming world a little over a decade ago. In 2001, an arcade game titled Monkey Ball came out which was promptly ported to GameCube. After that, many gamers fell for the cute monkeys and many more games in the series have come out since then.
Now Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz has arrived on the Vita and you may be wondering if it's still worth playing. The answers will all depend on what you are or arenâ€™t expecting this portable version to be about.
Although it is now on the Vita, youâ€™ll be pleased to know that all its features arenâ€™t shoehorned into the game. All menus are navigated via touch screen, but beyond that youâ€™re rarely forced to use functions if you donâ€™t want to. If you feel that the game must have specific Vita controls then you can set it up to control with motion sensor. Actually, playing this way takes a bit of work, though, as you have to learn exactly how much tilt will speed up or slow down your monkey. Itâ€™s also just odd to not being able to look at the screen straight on due to tilting it. Thankfully, the controls are a choice which are always presented to players. Most will prefer simply using the left analog stick as it offers tighter control.
For those not previously aware of Super Monkey Ball, good handling is necessary due to the way it plays. In it, you take control of a little monkey within a colored ball. They run around inside the ball and react to your controls. Basically, the player controls the levelâ€™s incline, which means that you are tilting the world to make the monkey go in whichever direction. Each level is filled with various paths, inclines, and things that are meant to hinder its progress from start to finish. Some levels have very easy goals while others are going to put a lot in your way to knock your monkey off platforms.
Solo mode is where players will probably flock first, as it is the most familiar. By starting up a game in one of four difficulties (last must be unlocked), you can have a standard Super Monkey Ball experience. The goal in this mode is to make it from one end of a level to the other without dying too many times. Each difficulty presents its own levels, which is necessary for this kind of game. Unfortunately, new players will probably find the 10 levels of Beginner mode to not teach them enough. Regardless, once entering other difficulties there are many more levels to work through. Difficulty quickly ramps up too which means these stages are not quick to complete.
Levels can also be played in multiplayer mode. This is handled via ad hoc as well as online, although youâ€™ll be hard pressed to find any matches going via PSN. If no one is online and you have no friends with a Vita, then you can still manage to take use of multiplayer modes though. Sega thought ahead and included single-unit modes, which mean that 2-4 players can play a game together using only one system. There are three main modes for that which are each cute little minigames. However, party mode might be even better to check out.
What is party mode? It includes the minigames from multiplayer, as well as additional ones. This might not seem interesting at first until you realize that one of the modes included is massive and a lot of fun to play. Thatâ€™s not to say that simpler games like Monkey Bowling arenâ€™t fun, but Love Maze is an excellent addition. In just this one mode, each player holds one end of the Vita and uses an analog stick. From a top down perspective, each player must maneuver their monkey through a maze; what makes this hard is that the two are connected via a small string, which stretches, but only so far. Each monkey must complete the level but also not have their connection break during it. This means that both players must work together to strategically solve mazes without ever getting too far apart. Itâ€™s a lot of fun and can be played in single player if you really feel like exercising your brain. Most of the minigames are not as enthralling, but this addition almost feels like an entirely new game.
However, thatâ€™s not to say every addition in Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is great. There is one mode in the game which actually ends up being much worse than you might expect. Edit mode, which sounds awesome initially, ends up being very odd. Players may imagine that with this mode they can tailor their very own stages to play in. Instead, what it turns out to be is a mode where you take a photo with the Vita camera, shake your device, then let the game spew out a randomly generated level for you. There is no way to edit it beyond what photos you take. Itâ€™s an incredibly odd design choice. In another strange decision, you may only download user stages if you have them on your friends list or at least know their PSN name.
Although there are some issues with the game, if all you want is a new Super Monkey Ball then this is a great choice. Disregarding flubs like the edit mode, there is a ton of content packed into the portable version. The main game spans around 100 levels and then still is nice enough to include many ways to play it with friends. Additions like the Love Maze mode are small games within themselves which only add to the value of the title. Both Super Monkey Ball fans and newbies will enjoy Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz as a go to puzzling platformer for Vita.
+ Hundred or so levels of Super Monkey Ball bliss
+ Load of multiplayer modes for multiple Vitas or just one
+ Extra modes add variety and value
- Edit mode doesnâ€™t allow for editing in any actual capacity
- Vita tilt control doesnâ€™t help the game
Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10)
Fans of Super Monkey Ball will appreciate the latest portable offering as it is brimming with content.