Monday, March 24, 2014

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz (video game)

Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Genre: Action, Puzzle, Party
Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

Few games can go from fun to frustrating as fast as a Super Monkey Ball entry.

Super Monkey Ball has been around since the early days of the Gamecube and was, in fact, one of the better titles for the system. Thirteen years after the first game, we're on entry number ten; time marched on, but Monkey Ball did not. Save some cruddier level design, this series has refused to move forward at all and that's it's biggest problem.

The biggest - and arguably only - added feature happens to be motion controls. If you so desire, you can control the game through tilting the system. This isn't even all that new a feature; I'm pretty sure the 3DS counterpart has it as well. Either way, the option to use the left analog stick is still there and believe me, you're going to want to use it.

See, the trouble with adding motion control to a game like this is that you only have so much say over what is happening as it is. Monkey Ball has always been unique in that you don't actually control the resident simian or the ball he resides in; you are actually controlling the tilt of the entire stage itself and using that to maneuver the ball around hazards, with sixty seconds to get to the goal. That's difficult enough as it is; adding tilt control just adds an extra layer of imprecision to a game where you're already struggling against momentum and navigating thin pathways.

Banana Splitz doesn't do a great job of being a portable title, either. When I say "nothing has changed" I'm including the way the game is structured. The typical Super Monkey Ball format is to have three difficulties; Beginner will have one world of ten stages, Normal will have three worlds of ten and Advanced will have five. You have a number of lives and continues to utilize and must complete all the stages in a difficulty in one shot.

That's perfectly fine for a home console - you're sitting on your couch, likely with a fair chunk of time to devote to whatever game you choose - but it's a poor format for a portable. Part of the point is to play games on the go and you don't always have a long stretch of time to play. Oh sure, you may have the occasional long commute or wait in a doctors office, but typically you'll pull out the system to kill a few minutes here and there. Most modern portable games plan for this - even the long games, like an RPG, will typically allow you to save at almost any point - but Super Monkey Ball doesn't bother. You either complete all the levels or you quit; there's no saving midway, so if you're on Advanced you're more or less screwed.

As a result, there aren't a lot of upsides to playing Banana Splitz. It's really the same as any other Monkey Ball game, so you may as well get one of those. There are better games to get for your PS Vita.

My Opinion: Skip It


  1. I remember getting the original Super Monkey Ball when I got my GameCube in 2001, and all the fun my brother and I had with it (and, later, with the sequel). In my experience too, the games have only gone downhill from there. The last one I got was the one that launched with the Wii, and man, those motion controls made it virtually unplayable.

  2. Yeah, this isn't a franchise suited for motion control. It's way too imprecise for a game like this. A lot of getting good at a Super Monkey Ball game is learning how to properly work the system. You can't really do that through tilt, especially with platforms that narrow; Super Monkey Ball is not a game series built around motion control and it shows.

    It's just iffy level design, too. The first two entries for Gamecube were gold, but since then the franchise has been handed off to numerous devs, it seems. The design is just unimaginative and dull. The stages in Banana Splitz that feel remotely fresh or interesting are few and far between. It's best to just stick with the Gamecube entries; this franchise is dead in the water.