Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is a quirky little game that tasks you with guiding a monkey into a red ring on the other side of a level. The thing is the monkey is stuck inside some kind of ball so it isn’t as easy as simply walking over there. In fact you do not control the monkey at all instead you control the entire level itself and move it in a way as to get the monkey to the goal. You can choose to either use the Vita’s gyroscope sensors or just using the left stick. I massively prefer the latter as the precision required here is a bit too much for the Vita to handle well. Upon starting up the game you are given the option of playing solo, multiplayer or looking up high scores. Unless you have a friend with a Vita and a copy of the game you will not be able to get a match since the community is long dead. Solo play will be the meat of the game as it features tons of levels, mini games and a level editor.
There are four different monkeys to choose from though there is no difference between any of them other than appearances. You can then either choose to practice whatever levels you have seen or go directly into “Challenge” where you are tasked with going through a gauntlet of levels with a limited set of lives. You are given three sets to choose from called Beginner, Normal and Advanced though you should really start in order if you’re unfamiliar with the series. Beginner and Normal both consist of 25 levels each and are a walk in the park. Advanced is when the game kicks off the training wheels and expects you to be able to jump the Grand Canyon. Advanced consists of 50 insane levels that you must conquer one after the other which is quite a daunting task and a massive difficulty spike. You are given 9 continues which grant three lives each equaling up to a total of 27 lives for 50 stages. It is likely you want beat Advanced in quite some time unless you are a master of Monkey Ball or familiar with the Wii version.
Scattered around the levels are a bunch of bananas to collect and gathering thirty of them awards you with an extra life. Each level has a timer of 60 seconds and if you fail to reach the goal in time you die so it can lead to risk vs reward on occasion. The levels are really short, though actually beating them will take several minutes of unfortunate monkey demises. Losing all of your continues will mean that you have to start from the beginning of that difficultly mode all over again so you can see why beating Advanced is a nightmare. The backgrounds change up every so often though they rarely have a direct impact on the stage itself. Falling off the stage or running out of time are the only ways you can actually die. At first you have rail guards around the edges but pretty soon the game will actively try to kill you with a variety of contraptions like alligators that push you off or half rails with holes in the bottom. Other times the red ring is right near you but the issue would be exactly how to reach it instead of any actual danger. These changes from level to level really help the game from getting stale.
It sounds well and good but here is one really big flaw in this title. The camera. It is very janky and unreliable. You can control it with the right stick but only if you are perfectly still and even then only to look horizontally so if you need to look below you then tough luck. Even then you will nearly never have the chance to be perfectly still meaning that you have to rely on the awful camera which will be the cause of many unforeseen deaths. It really puts a hamper on your enjoyment as you may lose through little fault of your own and are constantly struggling to see where you are going. It’s no game breaker but it is a pretty big flaw nonetheless. As for the graphics they look really stunning and full of color with little to no slowdown. Music as well is pretty great and catchy. Controls are not too great for sensors and work fine with the left stick though the Vita’s nub is not exactly ideal for any kind of precision.
If you somehow make it through all the levels there is also a rather neat addition to the game that lets you snap a pick of any object and it will automatically create a level from it. It is obviously not as good as the handmade levels but it is still rather fun to go around snapping pictures of random stuff around you. Mini games were unexpectedly a ton of fun on some of them. Love Maze has you controlling two monkeys at the same time and if they go too far from one another they get sad and die. Number Ball has you shaking your Vita to flip around some cue palls so you can pick them in the right order and Monkey Bowling is exactly what it sounds like and more fun than it should be. Each have multiple difficulty modes and are not just throw away distractions even if some of the mini games are pretty terrible you’re bound to find some addicting ones.
One minor annoyance is that you can only control the menus with the touch screen while the buttons do nothing. It is a short game if you are very good at Monkey Ball and there is not much that will keep you coming back for more unless you are into competing on leaderboards. With great music, graphics and over 100 levels it is still a decent purchase if you can put up with the camera. Even if you manage to beat all the levels there is still the level generator used by taking snapshots of objects and the rather addictive mini games to unwind after failing to beat Advanced for the 100th time. It is a shame about the terrible camera because otherwise this is a feature complete and fun experience. There are surely better Monkey Ball games out there but if you only have a Vita, Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz is a rather mediocre yet fun introduction to the series and one that is surely to challenge even veteran players.