Ace Banana PS4 Review
The launch period of new videogame hardware can often feel like the Wild West: not every game ready for launch is a guaranteed quality release…many of them are in fact quickly-made, poorly-polished cash-in titles with a strict deadline to meet the launch period. Not even celebrated franchises with proven track records like Mario or Batman can escape this fact, though such recognizable titles tend to put the required effort in making a good first impression (and tend to sell the most during a new hardware launch regardless of their quality).
There is a certain thrill in seeking out that rare, unadvertised diamond in the rough…that launch game that flew past everyone’s radar but secretly trumped all of the big-named releases in showing off the newest tricks only possible on the latest tech. Ace Banana, a PSVR launch title by Oasis Games, is absolutely not one of those games. It is, in fact, the total opposite: a bargain-bin dumpster fire of poor controls, ugly visuals and immediately identifiable as a title that should be avoided by almost everyone. It is easily the rotten fruit of the PSVR launch basket.
The concept of Ace Banana involves players taking on the role of a banana guardian who must protect baby bananas from hungry monkeys…or something. Good luck trying to make sense of the flimsy setup without being turned off by the hideously man-faced banana people or their grammatically-poor dialog…apparently regular bananas are just infant babies who haven’t yet come to life, which paints a rather morbid picture to grocery stores everywhere, but the point is that players must fend off against the hordes of monkeys looking to score a free meal. This is accomplished by using the two Move controllers to simulate a bow and arrow: players pull back on the bow with one controller while aiming with the other, then let loose their arrows to knock the monkeys flat on their bare baboon butts.
In theory, using motion controls to simulate a bow and arrow is a great idea, one that’s been criminally underutilized during the previous generations of waggle-based games. Ace Banana gets the feeling of letting loose controlled arrows well enough, with a sight-assisting reticule to indicate where the arrows will land. There are also collectible power-ups during the wave-based rounds that can result in additional and typically more powerful arrows, which comes in handy against the increasing horde of monkeys.
From a visual standpoint, Ace Banana’s bright and simplistic color scheme actually translates well over the PSVR’s lower resolution, masking much of the blur issues more realistic-looking launch games have taken a hit from. It’s too bad the character designs are all amateurish in addition to nightmarish: the banana people all have disturbing human faces, while the monkeys look like something out of a bargain-bin Wii game (which I suppose is appropriate, all things considered). The soundtrack is equally mundane, with the same generic tracks repeating ad nauseam.
But the one truly unforgivable bit of Ace Banana’s pedestrian design is that, quite simply, it does not work. It’s one thing for launch games to mishandle certain aspects of a new control scheme, it’s another to mess up so bad that the game is virtually (no pun intended) unplayable. Much of the issue lies in how the game interprets the player’s position: for those unaware, PSVR games have a universal calibration method in the form of the Options button: holding the button down will re-center the headset’s display to wherever the player’s head is directly facing, making it handy for those moments were the display feels eschewed. Despite numerous attempts to re-center the game as well as restarting it entirely, Ace Banana runs the habit of placing its display far too close to the player’s face, as well as placing them far into the side of where they should be (the onscreen HUD and other menus tend to be placed into the far corner, forcing persistent players to creep their necks to the side). The virtual hands that are controlled with the Move controller are not only mashed up against the player’s face, they also tend to be simulated in the wrong position, with the left and right hands arbitrarily reversed, sometimes with the palms facing upwards.
It’s somewhat cathartic to discover the single worst launch game in a new hardware’s lineup, but simply calling Ace Banana a rotten fruit that spoils the batch does not do its awfulness justice: this is, simply put, VR poison, the kind of low-budget and poorly optimized trash that would put newcomers completely off VR gaming just as it has began its console infancy. Just as hidden gems tend to gain notoriety through word-of-mouth, it would be equally serviceable to spread the warning toward games like Ace Banana to help early adopters to avoid an awful experience this early on. Perhaps a later patch can at least get the game to function properly, even going so far as to turn it into a family-friendly distraction at a cheap price. Until then, avoid it like a steaming pile of monkey droppings left on the ground and carefully step over toward a more promising VR experience.