In video games where monkeys are involved, the typical goal is to collect as many bananas as possible, because that’s what monkeys do. Has anyone ever stopped to ask the poor bananas how they feel about this? The developer TVR (Time of Virtual Reality) and publisher Oasis Games have decided to ask that very question with their PlayStation VR game Ace Banana.
Set in a world where monkeys and the titular fruit used to live in harmony, Ace Banana places you in the role of an adult banana archer whose sole purpose is to protect the innocent and vulnerable baby bananas in your care from monkeys who would love nothing more than to steal them. So, is this VR game more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, or is it just plain bananas? Let’s find out!
Raising The Next Banana Generation
Now, up until a few days ago I had never been an archer, let alone one who also happens to be a sentient banana, but I have had some experience with archery in games before. Early PlayStation Move adopters will recall the launch title “Sports Champions” for the motion controllers when they first released.
In this game, they had you use one motion controller as your bow, and another became your hand that would pull back and launch your projectiles. It was, easily, the best archery experience I’d ever had. Well, I’m happy to report that Ace Banana adopts the exact same control style for Move controllers and it works just as well, if not better, in this game.
The main menu of the game has you standing in a hut of sorts. In front of you is small green area where your bananas roam free thinking about all the things bananas think about. You know, potassium, what happened to the others in their bunch, that sort of thing.
Here you can pick up and check out the various types of characters you’ve unlocked. You can also place one on the pad next to you to play as them in your next round of archery. New babies that you’ve collected will appear here as tiny green bananas that you can raise.
Using the Move controllers, you can use your virtual hands to feed them, water them, and give them sunshine until they’re fully grown and ready to join your fruit-filled army. When you’re ready for the intense part, you can pull the string in front of you to enter the battlefield.
A Noble, But Difficult Pursuit
Once you enter the main portion of Ace Banana, you’ll find yourself standing in a massive space with three levels of height to choose from. When you look down, you’ll see the smiling faces of your banana brethren looking up at you with tiny eyes.
Seeing their faces made my heart melt, but it also made me steel myself knowing that their tiny lives were in my hands. A floating blue ghost flies across the screen and signals the first wave. His placement is a clue. If he’s flying above you, then it’s time to switch areas, because that’s where the monkeys will be coming from.
You can point and press the move button on your controller when you see a red ring to warp to the various levels of the area and defend your babies from the oncoming hordes. The monkeys come from every direction and vary in their sizes and types.
The common monkey is but a nuisance that can be felled with a single arrow. When the clowns and construction workers start showing up, that’s when you start to break a sweat. The Move controllers respond flawlessly as you pull back and fire arrow after arrow. Even rapid fire attacks where you don’t pull back all the way will respond with perfect precision.
As you fight for the innocent lives of the smiling faces beneath you, you’ll see various ammo drops that you can shoot to collect. Some are beneficial, others assist you, and then there’s power ups like the rock arrow.
The rock arrow doesn’t go very far, and while it packs a punch, I avoid it like the plague. There’s a level of strategy that comes into play here. Once you pick up an arrow type, you have to use it until the ammo runs out.
Monkeys can and will steal your bananas. They sneak up, grab one, and then run off without looking back. A well-timed shot into their back can stop them from getting away, but if they make it away from the area, one of your baby bananas is gone.
You start the game with twenty babies, and once they’re gone it’s game over. The game has four bosses and sixteen stages total. The bosses appear after a set number of waves and really love to ruin your day.
The first boss is a towering robot driven by what I can only assume is a mad scientist monkey based on the name of the boss. Shooting the monkey will eventually bring down the terror, but it’s an intense bout.
Moving into the next set of waves, the monkeys quickly begin to diversify and new types are introduced very quickly. By the time I reached the second boss on Wave 10, I knew my end was coming. The boss itself wasn’t so bad, but the monkeys that accompanied him were numerous.
That was just my first playthrough. I returned to the main menu to feed my tiny bananas and watched as one of them grew into a sort of elvis character with a sweet set of abs. Yes, that’s right, I just described a banana with elvis hair and abs.
The only issues I encountered in my time with Ace Banana were minor tracking and drifting problems, neither of which were really the game’s fault. After an extended play session, I had moments where the Move controllers would jitter or lose tracking. This was a result of me turning and shooting to the point where I had somehow ventured to the left side of my room and into the couch.
In moments like these, holding the start button on the right side of the controller allows you to quickly recenter the calibration once you’ve found out where the camera is. (Pro tip: You can open the PlayStation menu and select the “confirm position” option to get a live picture of where you are in relation to the camera. This works for all VR games).
I tried the game with the DualShock 4 controller and while it worked just fine, I really prefer the Move option for both immersiveness, and the ability to cultivate your bananas in the main menu. Try as I might, I couldn’t feed, water, or nourish my bananas with the standard controller, but it worked perfectly find with the Move.
There are plans to introduce cooperative play in the future through a patch, and I will welcome the assistance with open arms (peels?). Until then, I shall be the lone banana archer, fighting for the freedom of banana babies everywhere.
Bright and Beautiful Art, Perfect For VR
The world of Ace Banana is a colorful one, which is always a nice change of pace in video games, but this art style truly shines in VR. The total immersion of VR really brings this cartoon world to life and makes me feel like the star of a Saturday morning cartoon.
The monkeys themselves are expressive and varied in how they react to your arrow shots. The bosses have a true sense of presence as they tower above you or dash across the screen. This would have been a perfectly fine game back when the PlayStation Move released, but on VR it stands out more than it ever could on a standard television screen.
On a final note, I’d like to also discuss the price. Ace Banana normally sells for $14.99. For the first two weeks after launch, they are offering a 10% discount for every user, and a 20% discount for PlayStation Plus members. This game is perfectly priced at $14.99 as an arcade experience, but with a discount it’s absolutely worth a look.
Many of the launch titles for PlayStation VR are intense, gritty, or even terrifying. Ace Banana comes out of the gate with a fun, accessible, quirky, and overall fun arcade experience with almost perfect motion controls. You’ll breeze through the first few waves, but don’t let the cuteness fool you, this banana’s got teeth.
Final Score: 8.0/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/21/16
A copy of Ace Banana was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes