Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz almost represents a return to form for this troubled series. Returning to the original's simplicity, it recaptures a lot of the charm and magic from when the series first rolled into our hearts over 11 years ago. Indeed, its sickeningly cutesy aesthetic is as delightful now as it's ever been. But this is only a surface charm, as the steep drops and razor thin tracks make this Vita exclusive a particularly unforgiving experience.
Thankfully, the game is fun enough to guide you through its difficulty spikes. Clever level design makes each course an interesting puzzle to solve, as you figure out the route you need to roll – either with the left analogue stick or motion sensors – to find the exit and collect the bananas scattered along the way. The game encourages you to take risks, with dangerous jumps concealing secret exits, shortcuts, and plenty more bananas. Online leaderboards prompt further analysis, as you strive to shave seconds off your times and score more points. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is a tricky monkey to get off your back, for sure.
Rolling through the lengthy Challenge mode across the multiple difficulty tiers is a goliath task in itself, especially with 50 devious advanced courses to test your skills. However, the game has plenty more to offer on the side. Party mode provides a selection of slightly modified mini-games, as well as a number of other ingenuous distractions that make excellent use of the Vita's unique functionality.
The wonderful Monkey Target returns – although disappointingly stripped of some of its previous variety – challenging you to launch your chosen primate onto a gigantic platform in order to score points. Monkey Bowling also makes an exciting comeback, prompting you to turn your Vita vertically to get a better view of the lane. Elsewhere, new arrival Monkey Rodeo has you fondling the rear touchpad in order to bounce a monkey around a fruit filled arena, while Love Maze plays a lot like Kuri Kuri Mix, with each analogue stick controlling a different monkey across different courses, as you try to reach the goal at the same time without severing the link between the two. Finally, Pixie Hunt finds you using the Vita's camera to snap pictures of colours in order to match a target shade.
The game boasts a multiplayer component for up to four people, too. You can choose to play locally, online, or even with one system by passing the console around. All of the aforementioned mini-games support the social feature, as do the courses from the Challenge mode. And if all that wasn't enough, you can create your own stages by taking photographs of objects in the real world – although it does feel like a randomly generated track is formed, rather than anything based on your photos.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is packed to the rafters with great content, but lengthy load times and clunky menus break its flow. The original game remains the best in the series, but this is still well worth a roll.