In theory, Ace Banana should be an amazing fit for VR. Assuming he role of a banana archer, your job is a simple enough task – protect your stash of bananas using your bow and (rubber) arrows at all costs. Unfortunately, something gets lost in the execution, and this simple concept loses it’s element of fun long before arm cramp from holding your imaginary bow can kick in.
Ace Banana is a simple enough game, both in style and depth, and this is both a blessing and a curse. Standing in a fixed spot, piles of bananas at your feet, monkeys will venture forward from various locations in front of you and try and steal your stash of bananas. It is your job to take aim with your bow and take them out before they manage to steal any, holding your bow with one controller to aim, and deciding on power by how far you draw back your arm with the other Move controller, as you would a real bow and arrow, and this simple set up works – for a while. Where it works is that the cartoon stylised graphics fit in with the overall idea – let’s be honest, a banana archer defending mounds of bananas from marauding monkeys is as out there as they get, and the game never claims to take itself seriously, which also helps to alleviate any problems in the graphics department.
One of my main gripes with Ace Banana is how the game plays with the hardware. Through my many play through’s I found the game quite unresponsive, and every time I started the game up I had to swap the PS Motion controllers around as the game had mapped them to the opposite hands, which made aiming a bow and arrow quite difficult to say the least. Once this problem was overcome, the next one was a purely physical one (and maybe says more about me than the game itself) – your arm aches constantly holding the move wand up as you would a normal bow for sustained periods of time. Initially the illusion of holding a bow with one Move controller while you draw back the string with the other works, but once the arm ache kicks in the simple premise of the game is lost – essentially the whole time trial element, of taking out the attacking monkeys as quickly as possible, becomes more chore than enjoyable experience, and it was this that quickly turned my experience sour. Another issue is the lack of any form of explanation or set up that explains what is going on – a minor issue to some, but a major turning point when even some of the games fundamental concepts simply aren’t explained. For example, it is possible to teleport around the map to attack enemies from differing viewpoints, but I worked this out only because I was losing bananas, and couldn’t for the life of me work out why. I could see monkeys above me on a platform as they ran away, however the bananas directly in front of me lay ripe and untouched – after a couple of minutes of frantic button bashing I realised I could zoom around the map and that I had stashes in various locations, and not just the one I started in front of.
Without any explanation the game does feel like something is missing, and in this instance had I not managed to work out the right combination in time, the game would have ended and that would have been that, through no fault of my own. I have spoken before about how sometimes we as gamers expect our hands to be held far to often through tricky sections, and it is a debate that I don’t plan on settling here about whether games now are too easy, but when things are done properly there is a real sense of discovery and achievement when you work out what to do or how to navigate a tricky section of a tough level – here it just feels like an oversight, and that detracts from the experience of playing which is a shame.
Rereading this review I feel guilty in that it is perhaps one of the most negative I have written for sometime, and I have to at least counter this with some positives. The arcade style does hold up, and playing the game in short sharp bursts does work to balance out the fun vs arm cramp issue. Equally, it is something that most people can pick up and play, and I have used it as a means to show of the potential of VR to non-gamers, as it has yet to make me feel travel sick while playing (although teleporting around the level does feel a bit weird at times).
If you’re looking for something simple to pick up and play then Ace Banana fits that criteria easily, and I think the biggest reason for my overall negative stance was that I was genuinely excited to play this game, fantasies of becoming the Green Arrow about to be realised, but I was quickly let down – like an arrow sent sailing over the target after an archer has just sneezed, something about Ace Banana just misses the mark.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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