Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz
Platform: PS Vita
Super Monkey Ball uses a formula that is so addictive that tinkering with it would only ruin the unique mechanic. A monkey in a ball. What else could you do? Tell that to SEGA who enjoy nothing else but chopping and changing their games to reinvent them for the new generation for reasons unknown to the series' loyal following. SMB is not the only series to have had that treatment as anyone can see that Sonic the Hedgehog has become accoustomed to this abuse over the past 10 years. Sonic's formula has been shaken up more times that a bottle of champagne at the end of a Grand Prix. Sometimes, sticking to what you know is best, and in the case of Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz, Sega have decided to stick to what the original set out so well.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is the latest addition to the series and the first on the Playstation Vita, a piece of hardware that should be perfect for the tilting turning game. Monkey Ball doesn't force the accelerometer on you as you do get the choice to use the left thumbstick to guide your monkey around. The fact that the choice between the two control schemes exists as an option is a refreshing change, as the majority of VITA games (Uncharted, FIFA) throw in all the control schemes, allowing you to use them when intended and by accident.
Single player mode greets you with the typical Monkey Ball learning curve where the beginners level is ridiculously easy with barriers guiding your every roll whilst the latter advanced stages are hard enough to cause a small rage quit. Remember this chestnut whilst playing; It may be frustrating, but the VITA is your controller AND screen so throwing it down will only cause sadness.
Gameplay is the same as previous incarnations with the aim being to reach the end of the level whilst collecting as many bananas as possible. The eagle eyed player will see that there is an achievement for collecting all the bananas; a task that will keep the most stubbon player playing for months.The games traditional cutesy way flows through the game with Ai Ai and friends making sure you are aware of their feelings. Smash them too hard into a wall, and a squeal is the response. Succeed in completing a level and you are geeted with the trademark GOAL shout from the ... 'narrator' (I guess) and a joyous squeak from your monkey. It's all of these little touches that bring you to be more involved with SMB and to keep going back to it for more.
SMB does look good but it doesn't really push the limitations of Sony's bangstick - but then it was never expected too. Don't expect explosions to follow your every path as hi res palm trees outline your course, but do expect cartoony twee graphics that really distract you from the devilishly fiendish mechanics at the heart of the game.
Multiplayer has always been a hidden gem in the Monkey Ball crown and Banana Splitz is no different. Monkey Target returns as does Monkey Bowling which are playable not just online, allowing for some serious party based fun. The tilt might be a bit sensitive in the bowling but don't let that distract you from the enjoyable nature of the local multiplayer.
Super Monkey Ball might not have the punch that it once had when it came out on Gamecube but Banana Splitz is a strong example of what this series can do when SEGA's tinkering department are kept away from it. The only problem is that the game doesn't feel like you hould be paying above £10 for it, especially when the iPhone iterations come in at a fifth of the price. It might not be a buy now game, but SMB BS is a game that you should add to your Vita collection at some point.
Pick the game up for £12.99 from Amazon.