This holiday season has brought with it a slew of long-awaited games… titles like Super Mario 3D World, Mario Party: Island Tour, and of course, a new Zelda game for the 3DS, among many others. It’s been a great season for game franchises, but that means something different for the little guys. Smaller releases tend to get lost amidst the hype… and while that’s sometimes a good thing (*cough*Heathcliff: Spot On *cough*), it’s really too bad for the charming little releases that deserve a chance.
Banana Bliss: Jungle Puzzles is one of those titles, released by Teyon and costing under $5 for what is a simple, yet addictive game. And in the midst of holiday stress and busyness, sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.
Plot is secondary (rather, tertiary, at best), as this is a puzzle game, so you’re not here for an elaborate storyline with complex characters. Instead, you have Morris and Molly, monkeys in love… all they want is to have a wonderful vacation on Paradise Island, but evidently Molly is playing a little hard to get. Morris has to prove how much he cares for Molly by collecting hearts (and bananas) over the course of 350 levels. And that’s the story, really. Like I said, it’s about the puzzles.
It’s puzzle-mania from start to finish, with seven 50-level worlds to make your way through as they progress in difficulty. The first world is more or less a tutorial world, providing you with simple challenges and introducing various obstacles you’ll encounter in the future. You can jump ahead and play the first 10 levels of any world, but why do that when you can build up your skills first?
All the levels are played from a 2D perspective, so you might as well leave the 3D off and save the battery life (since there’s no benefit to having the 3D on). Morris’ movement throughout the levels is similar to the movement from 3DS download title Pullblox—very simple and straightforward. You can’t jump—which may seem strange at first, given that you’re playing a monkey—but the movement is still quick and speedy, and the controls are very responsive.
As you move through the levels, more levels in each world are unlocked. New obstacles will appear in later levels in each world, keeping things interesting and forcing you to think through strategies to get all the items. This may seem incredibly easy at first—in some of the levels, all the hearts aren’t too difficult to get to—but the hidden bananas on those stages can be challenging to find. For every hidden bunch of bananas you find (and there’s one on every level), you’ll unlock a bonus stage!
Springs, boulders, fans, floating cats, all find their way into the game, and timing becomes a critical point in certain levels. Getting touched by a floating cat, or having a block fall onto Morris’s head after he’s moved it, results in failure for the level… but don’t worry! You can reset the level at anytime by pressing X, so making a false move doesn’t mean you need to wait out the 60 second timer before being able to attempt it again.
There are a few problems, however, one of those being the ridiculous dullness of the level design. While it’s fine at first, consider that you’re playing through 350 levels of puzzles with little to no variety of background. Yes, they’re monkeys on a jungle island, but usually those islands will have mountains or beach huts, or… something. They could have added something to liven the place up in each world, even, instead of keeping the same colors, tones, and basic setup. Cuteness can only go so far when there are over 300 levels to play!
It also would have been nice to have a bit more understanding of the creatures you’re… fighting? Avoiding? I can’t say I’ve seen floating cats before (they’re round, like… balloons, or puffer fish…), and it’d have been nice to even have a one-screen blurb of text to explain why there are floating cats on this island paradise. The flying snails were also rather alarming… why are they flying? Where did they come from? Why is this a thing?!
But, strangeness aside, the music isn’t too annoying, which is nice (and rare) for a puzzle game. It’s nothing you’ll find yourself humming along to in the shower or trying to get out of your head as you fall asleep at night, but you can leave it on without another household member going slowly insane or threatening bodily harm.
As a puzzle-only game, it’s a nice addition to the eShop—one that delivers on its puzzle promise, and that is perfectly playable for short periods during a busy holiday season (or on a bus, or on break at work).
The one big weirdness is that, while you can save a playback recording of each level you fully clear, there’s no leader board system to allow you to share these videos or see how quickly you made it through in relation to your friends… so what’s the point? It seems like a strange feature to include without online support, and a wasted opportunity.
While I wouldn’t recommend sitting down for a marathon session of playing (though wouldn’t it be great to be able to challenge someone to a speed run in online play or download play?), it’s still a fun puzzler that does everything it claims to do. It’s simple to learn, but challenging enough to keep you invested—and you may find yourself saying, on more than one occasion, “just one more level… okay, just one more after this… no, really, just one more…!”
Sure, there’s nothing to get visually excited over, but it’s a simple game at heart—and in a good way. A little extra polish (and some online support) would have made this an extra special game, but as it stands, the price point plus fun factor plus game length makes Banana Bliss: Jungle Puzzles a solid addition to the eShop’s selection of puzzler games this holiday season.