This review was originally written for TouchGen.net, which is no longer online.
Embrace your inner ape
In the App Store, there is definitely no shortage of endless runners. Endless variations on Canabalt and Jetpack Joyride compete in the race to stand out just enough to be a hit. Banana Kong bets on its cute graphics and gullible gorilla, chased by a self-inflicted avalanche of banana peels. Do the fruits of the game offer sufficient incentive to run along with Kong?
As prescribed by the genre, Banana Kong is all about running, jumping and picking up the local currency. Obstacles pop up randomly, with rocks tumbling Kong to the ground and barrels slowing him down. It’s one of those games that aim to please by offering a simple one finger approach. Tapping makes Kong jump and holding your finger on the screen enables our primate protagonist to glide on a leaf in the wind. Kong’s diet is not a light one, so you’ll need some help getting ahead.
Luckily, power-ups and utilities can be bought with the popular boomerang-shaped currency you collect along the way. Besides bonuses like the banana magnet and enhancements for the glide function, there is a variety of helpful animals available. These can be summoned on command and mounted. Some of the animals also appear at random intervals in the game and change the scenery by adding challenges. Riding a boar results into frantic rock busting action and mounting a toucan will have you avoid piranhas over turbulent waters. Bananas serve a double purpose in the game: they act as currency and fill up a power meter for a special power dash, activated by swiping over Kong.
The jungle you’ll run through is well-drawn and fun to look at. There are two additional levels in the game: up high on the treetops and down in the caves. Both are accessed by performing the power dash, either near an entrance below or a vine at the top of the screen. Bumping on treetops is a fun and short distraction, yet dwelling in the caves presents much more of a challenge with a plethora of ways to die. As a result, the treetops feel like bonus levels, whereas the caves more like errand runs.
Banana Kong sports a good amount of missions, but something is missing here. In fact, the whole mission overview is absent once a run ends. Without it, the game falls short and causes severe doubt as to why you’d keep on running. Most primates enjoy picking up bananas and jumping over platforms, but personally, I need some direction. The mission screen is available from the main menu and it will appear if you complete a mission, but not having it presented obsessively in a game that’s supposed to be frantic is a clear miss.
Endless runners are fun and the vibrant Banana Kong is no exception. Still, without repetitive reminders of missions, the game never elevates itself to a more addictive experience. Banana Kong shows how important it is to always dangle a reward in front of the player. Without it, all that running is monkey business. No offense, Kong.
3 out of 5 stars