Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Review

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz's disappointing collection of minigames can't live up to the standards of classic Monkey Ball gameplay.

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The beauty of Monkey Ball has always been in its simplicity. Those teetering-on-the-edge, twitchy moments as you coaxed your monkey-filled ball across treacherous platforms, moving obstacles, and gaping chasms were wholly compelling, and a lot of fun to boot. And so they remain in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz, for the most part. While the standard Monkey Ball challenges are largely well-designed, colourful slices of classic Monkey Ball action, Banana Splitz's other modes are a convoluted, frustrating mess. The minigames range from dull to horribly confusing, giving you little reason to try to compete against others.

It's best to stick to the classic Monkey Ball mode. There, you must guide the cute monkey ball of your choice by tilting platforms with the analogue stick and rolling the ball around a devilishly challenging selection of courses, which are spread across beginner, normal, and advanced difficulty levels. Each course sports a different and wildly colourful theme that sets the tone for the challenges ahead. The beginner levels are bright, palm-tree-infused affairs with wide platforms, simple curves, and easy-to-reach bananas. Normal ushers in dinosaurs and prehistoric objects that try to smash your ball out of the way, while advanced brings the pain with heaps of jumps, holes, and impossibly thin platforms to navigate.

The advanced difficulty level almost errs on the side of being too hard, but there's always a way to make it through each level and towards the goal at the end, even if the solution isn't immediately obvious. That's so long as you stick to the analogue stick controls, though. Trying to complete anything but the easiest of levels with the motion controls is a painful experience--they simply aren't accurate enough, not to mention that it's difficult to see the screen when you're tilting it away from your face to slow your monkey ball down. That lack of precision also makes collecting bananas all the more difficult, which you need to do to earn high scores, or extra lives and continues should you fall off the edge of a platform one to many times.

You can relive those glorious moments of failure by saving replays of them to one of 16 slots, and you can share them--along with replays of your successes--with other Banana Blitz players. It's nowhere near as useful as sharing full-track playthroughs, but there are some amusing bailouts to be found online. Speaking of online, Banana Blitz features a full multiplayer mode via online and ad hoc connections, as well as simple pass-the-handheld play. Unfortunately, the multiplayer modes don't make use of the franchise's classic gameplay and instead focus on a series of minigames.

And those minigames are something of a mess. Things start off promisingly enough with Monkey Target, where you launch your monkey ball off a ramp and float it through the air, pass through checkpoints, and attempt to land on a platform at the end. There are three variations of the mode that change up the layout of the final landing platform--including a neat pinball-inspired layout--but all variants quickly become repetitive. So too does Monkey Bowling and its touch-screen controls that make it far too easy to score a strike each and every time, even on levels where there are warped lanes or gaps.

Those are the best of the bunch, though. Take Monkey Rodeo, an infuriating game where you have to collect bananas by bouncing ball-riding monkeys around with the rear touch pad. It's nigh on impossible to control your monkey and earn points, and the overly aggressive AI relentlessly smashes into you. There's the sluggish Battle Billiards too, which, despite the injection of monkeys in balls, fails to make playing billiards at all exciting. But the very worst of the lot is Pixie Hunt. Here, you're asked to use the Vita's camera to take photos of objects that match the colour of the reticle and…that's it. That's the whole game. The fact that someone, somewhere, at some stage in this game's development thought that was entertaining is maddening.

Similarly maddening is the promisingly titled Edit mode, which isn't actually a way to create your own wacky Monkey Ball courses using the touch screen. Instead, it's a simple random course generator that lets you snap a picture using the Vita's camera and use it as a background. That's incredibly disappointing. Fun (if not wholly original) as the classic Monkey Ball mode may be, it's not enough to prop up the rest of this confused mishmash of mundane minigames.

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The Good
Classic Monkey Ball levels are nicely challenging
Colourful visuals
The Bad
Minigames are dull and often confusing
Multiplayer modes rely on those same minigames
Edit mode doesn't let you create your own courses
5
Mediocre
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sjawz3288
sjawz3288

I still don't regret trading my Vita in for 3DS. Come on SONY! Make me regret it and buy another one! I wanted to like this handheld so badly, even got it on launch. But everything about it is getting more and more...meh.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

I do not understand why Sega continue to develope medicore Super Monkey Ball games, and it shows how the franchise has fallen. I remembered a time when Super Monkey Ball games were well-received critically, but now they are poorly received.

flare_fire
flare_fire

From reading the comments, it seems like the main game is very good. Hearing that is awesome, because that is definitely what makes SMB games great. Glad to hear they are good again.

AsianSalvation
AsianSalvation

for some reason, i laugh so hard when i see a game get a horrible score

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

I remember when Monkey Ball games used to be great... 

gbus316
gbus316

Another day, another mediocre Vita game

burgeg
burgeg

Shallow my arse. Bet you any money the reviewer never beat Advanced mode. Those stages are ridiculously hard. Anything but shallow. Ok the concept of Monkey Ball gameplay is basic, but the stages get increasingly complex. I own the game and I can honestly tell you it's way better than this review suggests. It's a return to form for the series and the best Monkey Ball since 2.

 

Are the minigames disappointing? Absolutely. But the main game is great, very challenging and addicting. Classic Monkey Ball. For me minigames have never been a big deal in Monkey Ball games. I'll touch them once or twice and never go back to them. It's the main game that keeps me coming back to MB games. It's those main stages where the series faultered in recent years, and it's those main stages where this game is a return to form for the series.

 

The review tends to actually agree with my assessment there actually.....but for some reason the review puts WAY too much importance on the minigames. I mean, if the game didn't include any minigames at all, would you give the game a higher score? Sounds like a maybe, since you would judge the game purely on its main game, which is pretty good.

 

It also has an extremely cheap price tag so I'd absolutely recommend it. Don't buy the digital version though, that is overpriced. I'd go as far to say that based on the price you can get the game for it's a must have Vita game, especially if you're a fan of the original MB games.

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

Dang, looks like SEGA has to do something about the Monkey Ball franchise.

advancedcaveman
advancedcaveman

They should make a dark and edgy Monkey Ball spinoff where you play as a hideous, realistic looking baboon who has to roll around South Africa pestering tourists.

burgeg
burgeg

 @JustPlainLucasI remember when people actually read reviews and took the points of a review in context instead of blindly looking at a score and assuming something is a crap game...

 

The thing is there isn't much in this review that is actually wrong. The basic translation of the review is Main game = Good. Minigames = Bad. That's absolutely right and not something I'm going to argue with.  But people like you won't read enough to get that point. You just look at the score and assume the entire game is crap.

burgeg
burgeg

 @nintendoboy16 They did, with this game. You should try something out before judging based purely on a review. Bottom line: If you like Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 you'll like this game. The review basically says that! It's just the minigames that aren't good. The main game is the best in the series since 2.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

 @nintendoboy16 

Was one of my favorite games on the Gamecube, wish Sega would bring it back to its former glory (like many of their franchises, I want a new Jet Set Radio and Space Channel 5!!!!)

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

 @Gelugon_baat In before... pretty much EVERYONE on pretty much EVERYTHING you can possibly add content to.  =p

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

 @burgeg Read the review, saw the score, looked at the metacritic, skimmed through those reviews, witnessed a decline over the years of the quality of the franchise, so .. yeah, I'm not just talking about a score.  So, why don't you take your sh it and shove it back up your ass.  

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

 @burgeg  @JustPlainLucas Damn dude, give it a rest. At what point did you think that giving an unnecessary rant to a comment that had nothing to do with the score was a good idea?

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

 @burgeg I usually play games regardless of reviews, but with this game getting mediocre reception (alongside the last one released for Wii), this means something for the Monkey Ball franchise. Why do you think Sonic got so much flak for who knows how long?

burgeg
burgeg

 @nintendoboy16 But lets just assume for a second that Sega does need to do something about the franchise. What should they do? The negative reception is largely about the minigames. Solution? Put more effort in to them. Problem? The problem is that that would probably come at the expense of the quality of the main games stages.

 

Solution 2: REMOVE the minigames altogether and just focus on making the core gameplay as high quality as possible. The problem with that? I personally see no problem with that and it's what I want to see the series do, but I GUARANTEE critics and gamers alike would complain about them not including any minigames.

burgeg
burgeg

 @nintendoboy16 The core monkey ball gameplay is well recieved generally. I mean did you even read the reviews or just look at scores? Look around and try reading. The core monkey ball levels are being called the best the series has had since 2. And they are correct in saying so. Reviews like this just put WAY too much stock in the crappy minigames and drag the score down because of that. I should also point out that this game has had its share of 7s and 8s, so it's not all negative reception even if all you look at is scores.

 

So I reiterate. If you like SMB1 and 2, you'll like this game. Unless the minigames are a big deal to you of course.

 

 

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz

  • PlayStation Vita
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz brings the banana-collecting fun to the PlayStation Vita.
ESRB
Everyone
All Platforms
Comic Mischief
Check out even more info at the Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz Wiki on Giantbomb.com
Average Score See all 12 Player Reviews
5.1
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