WHERE THE HELL ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS?
It’s possibly too simple a criticism and one that definitely needs justifying so hear me out for a few paragraphs whilst I explain a bit more about Ace Banana.
Ace Banana is a game where you shoot monkeys. You shoot them with a bow that is a snake with a small lizard attached to your hand (although the screen shots show otherwise) and your arrows are sink plungers. You shoot the monkeys because they are taking all of your bananas. As a banana yourself, you must feel rather aggrieved by this predatory exercise and so decide to ward off said monkeys with your pinpoint aim.
This all makes sense and is actually rather fun. There’s different pick ups you can get like a shuttlecock that acts like a bomb, coconuts that act as sticky shots and a bulb of garlic that… Well I couldn’t really tell you what that does – more on that later. You play in a big landscape standing still and can teleport to different vantage points, mostly to protect each point where you’ve stashed your bananas. Monkeys will come at you in waves and with increasing difficulty displayed by their dress. You’ll have clowns, cool beach bums, babies and builders. All of which take different amounts of shots in order to eliminate them.
So far so good. You end the waves with a boss battle which is bastard hard. Mostly this is because of the perspective that you have. You can of course teleport to better vantage points in order to cut them down. That is the game really, and it’s quite fun and very intuitive. The use of the move controllers as your bow and arrow are excellent and are actually very accurate. It will grate on you how the monkeys seem to move ever so that you miss the hit box but it doesn’t frustrate you overly because it is a fun exercise. That’s a testament to the games visuals which are very good. No frame dips, clear enemies, lovely cartoonish design and the teleportation implements tunnelling so that you don’t get motion sick. It’s all rather well presented until you start trying to work out what’s going on.
In a way it’s a perfect arcade game. Put on the headset, shoot some things, have fun and don’t ask too many questions. Once you do ask questions, you will end up learning things the hard way. The power ups for examples aren’t all positive. You can learn that some of them don’t exactly help your shot, like the plungers with stones on the end which dramatically drop your shots mid flight and need you to adjust how you aim and fire. Obviously you work this out the more you play but this is where things start to get confusing.
Before you start playing, you’ll be in a menu system in a small house. In front of you will be a book and a small area with a watering can in front of it. Next to that will be a mirror to your left and a pull down toggle which will start the game for you. However completely absent are an actual menu, some options or even a tutorial. Given that one of the main things you need to do is teleport to different platforms, being told what button it was to do so would have been prudent.
It’s a problem because the game tells you absolutely nothing about what to do. It doesn’t have a glossary or even an introduction of what to shoot. There’s an intro video that explains some back story but it isn’t able to replayed at all. There’s no hints incase your missing anything and the more you play, the more you realise that the game has woefully forgotten that a player exists behind the controller. To test this theory, I let a group of friends play this game who are not games journalists or critics. They too came to the same conclusion that the didn’t know what the hell they were doing. Trying to find unlockable items, which I assume there are because of the screenshots suggesting different items, has been a fruitless exercise.
As you play the game, you’ll unlock different bananas that you nurture in a box or nursery in front of you using the watering can, some sun and some plant food. Why? I have no idea. I’ve not found a way for them to be selectable or anything other than just existing for aesthetics and again, have absolutely zero explanation. But there is a problem with the game that is worse than generally bumbling around and that is actual bumbling around.
Tracking of the move controllers is really good in Ace Banana. Well it has to be to pull off what it does. Tracking of the headset however is absolutely awful and buggy. Many time I’ve ended up being spun around and facing a totally different direction to the PlayStation Camera, this not only makes looking at targets bad but also loses the move controllers behind your body, depending on how far you are turned around. You seem to spawn in the wrong place, just to the right of your bananas rather than them surrounding you. Like everything is off a few steps. I’ve tried to recalibrate the headset, tried it in different spaces other than my current set up, and had no success in anything being anywhere near right, or at least feeling right. At one point a game ended and I came back to the menu system so close to the banana nursery that I couldn’t reach anything to select, whilst in reality I was back against a wall and unable to move further away.
So in conclusion I want to know where my instructions are. Do we get a booklet online? Is there a mode that I haven’t discovered that tells me everything I’m missing? It’s not apparent if its even there and sadly the gameplay reflects, despite it being a good looking and easy to play game, that it’s very much a forgotten element. The player is a lost cause, which is a shame because the elements are all there. As a design decision it’s bananas… Ok, I’ll leave now.
- Fun bow and arrow shooting
- Great graphics
- Simple to pick up and play except...
- ... When you try to do more and work out what the heck is going on
- The tracking of you as a player is awful
- Very little to no options