You Are Not A Banana: Chapter 1
There just aren’t enough weird games out there.
After years of wacky titles created by LSD-inspired visionaries like Hideo Kojima and Suda 51, that statement may seem unsubstantiated. But for the truly psychedelic videogames that go beyond the boundaries of WTF, classics like Earthbound are regarded as the last bastions of mind-bending masterpieces.
You Are Not A Banana: Chapter 1 is clearly inspired by the pixilated preposterousness that used to flood the 16 bit market. Independently created by Brian Cullen, the game makes good on its title right from the start, setting the stage for what is unquestionably a bizarre and unpredictable experience…too bad it’s also a really short one. The soundtrack consists of seven chiptunes and as a bonus the MP3s are bundled with the game.
The story of You Are Not A Banana revolves around the player character heading out to the supermarket for some milk….and that’s it. Naturally, several metaphorical and literal roadblocks keep you from simply walking to the store and completing your objective, but that’s pretty much your main objective. Right from the start, the game makes good on its title, giving players a clear indication of what they’re in for…or rather, a clear indication that things are about to get weird and obtuse.
As with previous games cut from the same crazy cloth, it is difficult to write about the mechanics of the game, and that’s using the term loosely. In the broadest terms, YANAB is like an Adventure game where you are required to solve a series of puzzles to advance from one scene to the next. In what is typical with the genre, players need to forego logic and reasoning and instead try to think about how to solve each situation the way the developer intended it.
That may make it sound like the game requires some complex thinking to solve its puzzles, but that is hardly the case; most of the time the player character outlines exactly what needs to be done. In one example, he states that he has forgotten the combination to unlock his bicycle, and that taking a power nap would help him remember. Once you do take that nap, you are treated to a bizarre mini-game where you must collect the floating combination numbers before being swallowed by a mini black hole.
That’s just one out of a handful of strange situations permeating the world of YANAB, but to talk about any more of them would not only give away the intended surprise of each scenario, but spoil the game as a whole. You Are Not A Banana, despite its ambitious and unique ideas, is incredibly short, less than half an hour at the most. In total there are roughly half a dozen “puzzles” that are as brief an experience as an actual acid trip. What’s more, said puzzles aren’t as clever or creative as they initially appear; even the strangest of circumstances have to have some sort of context or comedic timing to them. Simply doing something weird for the sake of being weird is only half-effective, which is a good way to describe YANAB as a whole. Worse yet, several of the experiences are more monotonous than anything else: one sequence requires players to simply walk in one direction for an obnoxiously long distance, find the item that they need, then walk back the way they came. Another sequence has them fumbling in the dark and randomly tapping keys until they find the hidden passageway to lead them out.
In the end, You Are Not A Banana! is an appreciated effort, but ultimately an uneventful one that lacks any satisfaction or comedic timing. While the game’s price tag makes it hard to criticize its brief run-time, there simply isn’t enough to make it worthy of your attention, even if it’s just a few minutes worth (in fact, there are better efforts out there that are both longer as well as free, such as Frog Fractions and Bubsy 3D). The gaming world certainly needs more off-the-wall games like this, but a little more effort is required in order to kick-start this rarely-utilized genre.