Features & News

Hands On: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz (PS Vita)

December 7, 2011, Author: Diogo Miguel

Since those heady days when Sega were hardware giants have long gone, they’ve had to focus on publishing and software development, even putting games on the console of their biggest rivals, Nintendo; an angle which has been extremely successful for them over recent years. One of the games that helped bring that success with a Nintendo machine was the original Super Monkey Ball, which turned out to be well received by critics and gamers alike. Since then, we’ve seen further sequels on Nintendo consoles and other systems.

The latest game coming out is Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz on the Playstation Vita. It won’t be the first time a Super Monkey Ball game gets launched alongside a new console, but will it be worth the rush?

Something that Super Monkey Ball games always manage to get right are the visuals. The wide PlayStation Vita screen is bursting with colour thanks to all the usual Super Monkey Ball backgrounds. The levels I played all took place in the familiar tropical setting that fans should remember, in fact, the levels themselves have a very similar design to those found in previous games. The aim is to guide your monkey in a ball to the end of a level, with all kinds of obstacles and mazes to navigate. The levels start being fairly easy with barriers that make it impossible to fail. but it all starts to go downhill after that, though. Without barriers this becomes one of the toughest Super Monkey Ball games for all the wrong reasons.

One of the new features on the PlayStation Vita is that games can make use of the tilt technology found inside the console. Obviously Sega didn’t learn from its mistakes with the iPhone version of Super Monkey Ball, as that feature is still present here. Controlling the monkey in the ball is fairly straightforward when there is no danger of flying off the level. However, remove the barrier and it’s a real nightmare to move with precision around the various narrow paths in advanced levels.

They see me rollin'...

The tilt feature is also not very good at detecting user input when going up ramps. If the player loses momentum then it’s incredibly difficult to go up a ramp, unless they back up, which funnily enough makes the ball roll faster and usually ends up in another death. It’s still early days so hopefully Sega will be able to fine tune the tilt controls so that they become more responsive. The other control method consists of using the left stick to move the ball around. It’s feels like the better way to play the game and one that makes it easier to go about playing later stages in the game.

Something else I found in the build was the ability to create levels. It’s a bit vague at the moment but it asks for a new photo before creating a level. It then demands the player to shake the PlayStation Vita system to create the level. In all honesty this didn’t seem to do anything as the same level appeared after going through the process a few times. Oddly enough not even parts of the photo appeared on sections of the level. This does seem like a promising feature but it didn’t really do anything in the current build of the game.

It’s clear that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is either still in the early development stage or is going to end up being a mediocre PlayStation Vita launch title. Obviously it’s always great when developers try to make use of what new hardware has to offer, but it seems like some changes needs to be made before anyone can even think about trying to play the game with tilt controls.

Other than that Super Monkey Ball Banana: Splitz continues to be a pleasant experience thanks to the colourful visuals, but it might be overly familiar for those used to previous games. Hopefully, new features like custom levels will make it worth playing.