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Review: Ace Banana

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Once banished from the gaming lands, motion controls have hitched a ride on the VR bandwagon in an attempt to infiltrate our lounge rooms with their mediocre minigame collections and poor body tracking. At least the Oculus and HTC hitchhikers had the sense of decency to dress in 2016 quality hardware before putting their thumb out for a ride, Sony’s Move controllers are still in vintage 2010 rags that were a bit on the nose back then and today are absolutely rancid.

Ace Banana is a cartoony, motion controlled virtual reality archery experience where you take on waves of naughty monkeys trying to steal your stash of bananas. It is colourful and full of character, albeit with plenty of strange quirks as the Chinese developers TVR look to have handled the localisation to English in house, resulting in some interesting flavour text about the low intelligence of migrant workers and a tutorial littered with broken phrases.

With two Move controllers you are performing similar actions to previous archery minigames; holding a Move in each hand with one representing the bow and where you are aiming, the other being the string, drawn back to determine power. You stand in one place and face waves of monkeys with various traversal abilities that determine how many shots they take to vanquish and how fast they move. There are three locations to rotate between, a variety of power-ups that help or hinder you and bosses every fifth wave that prove surprisingly challenging.

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If the motion controls worked reliably Ace Banana would be a quirky, inoffensive but inessential game. It explains itself poorly, quickly becomes repetitive and features some situations where you simply must fail, for example I accidentally shot a “power-up” that turned my plunger-arrows into pillows, pillows which even when shot at full power could not reach the target on the first boss monkey, leaving me to stand around and wait for the boss to steal my bunch one by one. Other power-ups such as the homing shuttlecock work too poorly to be of much use and enemy variety usually just means “this one takes three shots to kill”. There is fleeting fun to be had but it is a simple idea with only average execution.

The big problem?  The motion controls just don’t work. The two Move controller setup would rarely remain feasible by the first boss, only five minutes into a game. Controller tracking would drift to the point there would be areas of the level I couldn’t shoot without my body blocking one or both controllers. When it works for the first few waves it is fun, but soon you are aiming to your left to fire an arrow straight ahead, and even recalibrating the headset using the options button doesn’t help as the controllers remain askew. Ace Banana doesn’t require pinpoint accuracy but after only a couple of minutes of play the Move controllers couldn’t even hit the broad targets the game offers. I don’t know who is at fault here, TVR and their programming or Sony and their hardware, I would suspect blame lie with both, but Ace Banana quickly becomes unplayable in its preferred format of two motion controllers.

There is support for the Dualshock 4 though it is clearly tacked on as an afterthought. The inane banana breeding minigame available between sessions cannot be played without Move controllers, the only thing you can do with a Dualshock on the main menu is start the game. The Dualshock support is still motion based, point your controller at the monkey and hit the trigger to fire, but recalibrating with the options button works better with the Dualshock and you can also manipulate your calibration by looking right or left to account for the drift, something that didn’t work as well with the Move controllers. It was the only way I could make any progress in Ace Banana though the game is far less interesting without the archery simulation the Move controls provide.

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Note that I haven’t had any tracking or drift issues in other games, Ace Banana is uniquely poor in this regard. The fast, constant movements and complicated two handed motions are too much for the game, system or both to handle. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, Ace Banana in its present state is barely playable with Move controllers.

As a VR experience, Ace Banana uses head tracking well and offers the option to darken the edges of your view when in motion (a very brief part of the game as you warp between the three locations) to ease potential sickness. The simple art style lends itself well to VR though the short music loop will send you batty even in the briefest game sessions.

If motion controls worked I could mildly recommend Ace Banana for those who want their archery fix or just enjoy a decent arcade game. It is moderately priced for a VR game and for the brief moments it works properly it is immersive. With no way to guarantee you won’t have motion control issues (looking online I am hardly alone in my complaints here) I can only recommend Ace Banana if you desperately need a fix of mediocre motion controlled VR.

Ace Banana was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4 using PS VR, as provided by the publisher.

 

Review: Ace Banana
3.5 out of 10

The good

  • Full of character.
  • Has some nice animations.

The bad

  • Motion controls don’t work properly.
  • Even if they did, this one doesn’t push any boundaries.
  • Does a poor job of explaining mechanics, power-ups and abilities.

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From Amiga to Xbox One, Doom to Destiny, Megazone to Stevivor, I’ve been gaming through it all and have the (mental) scars to prove it. I love local multiplayer, collecting ridiculous Dreamcast peripherals, and Rocket League. Find me on Twitter @gollennium