Simplicity isn't always a bad thing. Handheld titles are inherently more limited in technical scope than their more advanced home console contemporaries, but that doesn't necessarily make them lesser games. The 3DS eShop has had no shortage of downloadable beauties in 2013, ranging from simple to sublime, and the latest release from Teyon sits comfortably between the two extremes. Somewhat lost in the madness of the festive season and the bigger titles that come with it, Banana Bliss: Jungle Puzzles is a welcome diversion that appeals to anyone on the lookout for something that's easy to pick up and play.
The story is simple: Molly and Morris are our love-struck monkey heroes on vacation on Paradise Island. The player must help Morris prove his adoration by puzzling through over 300 levels, collecting hearts along the way. It's a basic setup that serves its purpose well enough, as there's definitely no continuation of the story to speak of. It's straight-forward puzzle-platforming from beginning to end, with plenty of it too. Each world - and there are seven of them - is made up of 50 levels, the first of which acts as a tutorial to get you familiar with some basic mechanics. The levels are played from a stationary, 2D perspective which the player can choose to zoom in on, but those playing in 3D won't have much stereoscopic effect to speak of.
Anyone who played the early 3DS download title Pullblox will get the hang of Morris' movement pretty quickly. A game where you play as a monkey that can't jump seems like insanity at first, but hopping from block to block still feels fast and lively, allowing you to fly through each level just as fast as your brain can process it. New obstacles are introduced as you progress to keep things interesting, including a hidden bunch of bananas to collect in every level; these spice things up a little as collecting five bunches will unlock a bonus stage to complete. The worlds can be visited in any order, so you can jump ahead in difficulty whenever you like. As things get a bit more hectic you'll be using strategy, timing, and some trial and error to make your way through springs, fans, and boulders.
Visually, this does leave something to be desired. There's a problematic absence of variety between worlds, as all of them keep the same drab green and brown jungle colour tone of the last — it's definitely nice and cute, but really only meets the minimum requirement for this kind of game. Sound design is serviceable and the music is pretty forgettable, but in contrast to some bland audio the enemy design is all over the place; it just seems a little jarring when Morris is confronted by flying snails and puffer-fish cats without any explanation. The menus are a little clunky, too, as they use an unconventional control scheme that takes a bit of getting used to, but using 'x' as a mid-level restart button is a nice feature.
It's a puzzle game that's right at home on Nintendo's portable, rewarding and fun in five minute bursts that will never leave you too boggled. There's the ability to save a recording of a successful level-clear, but without any kind of online leaderboard system this feature is purely for speedrunners only, analyzing the quickest solutions. It practically cries out for a level-editor given the blocky aesthetic to the stages, but it's hardly going to leave players wanting too much more. Marathon sessions may get tiring and over-familiar, but in little chunks Banana Bliss is great entertainment; a good fit for the eShop.
Easy to learn but challenging enough to keep you invested, Banana Bliss is a fun puzzler that just about keeps on the right side of simplistic. A lack of visual polish and a dire need for some variation between worlds holds it back from being a real hidden gem, but the fantastic price tag makes this one a solid recommendation.