Ace Banana Hands-On Preview – A Bushel of Fun (PSVR)

Our PlayStation VR-a-palooza continues with the most entertaining game of Oasis Games’ entire event: Ace Banana. On the surface, the game looks like a standard first-person shooter experience. It is only upon closer examination that you realize that it is anything but a run-of-the-mill shooting gallery. Your weapon of choice? The bow and arrow! Look out, Hawkeye! There’s a new sheriff in town — a sheriff that REALLY likes bananas.

While some games are content with having players sit back and defend a single base, Ace Banana takes the shooter and sprinkles in a little tower defense. In the level I played for my hands-on session, you were in charge of defending bundles of bananas, which were stored at three separate bases. Making matters worse, these bases were vast distances away from each other. Luckily, all it takes is a single button press and momentary aiming mini-game to quickly slingshot around the map.

Before we get too far down the gameplay road, it’s important to point out that this introduced yet another method for interfacing with the PlayStation VR. This time around, I had a Move controller in each hand and was at least somewhat encouraged to move around freely. Anyone who has fired a bow will be able to take to the controls rather naturally. For those that are unfamiliar with the concept of archery, here is a step-by-step walkthrough of the process: whichever arm is holding onto the bow remains extended outward, away from the body, firing off a shot consists of reaching out towards the bow hand with the opposite hand, grabbing the trigger to pull an arrow from your quiver, then pulling the non-bow hand back towards the body and releasing the trigger. It may look complex in written form, but rest assured it is amazingly intuitive in execution. I was shooting like Robin Hood in no time.

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Given that the game is about protecting bananas, it’s at least somewhat implied that you will be fending off waves of primates. These innocent looking beasts need to be dispatched, one suction cup ended arrow at a time. Yep, that’s right. No monkeys were harmed in the playing of this game. There are several different varieties of simians, each with their own unique abilities and health levels. If that wasn’t enough, after a few successful rounds, completely new animals decide to get in on the produce thieving action.

All of these adorable, yet despicable scavengers attack from several different tracks. In some cases, the beasts fall in line with the traditional tower defense trope of following along a pre-defined path. However, eventually these paths start to be ignored and then all hell breaks loose. In order to cope with the random nature of where critters are appearing from, I found myself frequently jumping around between the different bases. These moves were not only to protect that location’s supply of bananas, but also to have a different perspective to strike from.

Over the span of a wave there was usually an opportunity to snag a power up or two. These boosts can take the form of heat seeking arrows, arrows that dive-bomb out of the sky, or an arrow that fires off three arrows at a time. As helpful as these enhancements are, there are also a few, anti-power ups that can also be activated, such as an arrow with a large rock affixed to its tip. What dumb ape thought that was a good idea?

What easily made the biggest impression on me was Ace Banana’s amusing art design. All of the cartoonish animals ooze personality and charm, while also proving to be a gigantic pain in the ass to dispatch. Each wave introduces a new quirk or animal into the mix, which helps to keep things continuously fresh. I found myself excited to see what challenge was coming next.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I had other games to see, I probably would have played this all night. It was immensely gratifying to realize that I was actually getting better, the longer I played. As far as I am concerned, Ace Banana’s release date cannot come soon enough. Keep your eye out in October, because just like those dastardly monkeys, you don’t want this launch to sneak by you.