Sponsored By: An honest-to-goodness steam gift from my wife
Time Fostered: 52 Minutes
I’ve never had much patience for the Games Are Art arguments. Are games art or are they Art? Who cares? Make what you want to make. Play what you want to play. If you’re just talking about it, you’re not doing either of those things, which strikes me as unproductive.
But what do I know? I’m an engineer, which means I’m the sort of person who starts creating a mental checklist when I hear the phrase “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Let’s see. 98.6 degrees? Check. Sometimes, in August anyway. Provides warmth and sunlight for the plants? Not so much. So I guess it’s a wash.)
That anti-conversational attitude is one of the reasons why I find so many Art games to be tiresome. People think art has to have some kind of message, and it certainly can have a message, but there’s a fine line between encouraging people to think and telling them what to think – and I prefer the former if it’s all the same to you.
So imagine my delight at You Are Not A Banana: a title which tells me what to think (Screw you, narc! I can be a banana if I want!) but a game that does nothing of the sort. You Are Not A Banana is just a short story about life, crime and the virtues of fresh milk on your cornflakes. It’s not trying to tell you anything.
Indeed, the game doesn’t even tell you how to play it. The title screen tells you to press start to play, but the start button doesn’t work. That’s because the game really wants you to press the action button to start a game. I’m not sure if that’s an oversight or an artistic choice.
Beyond figuring out how to start the game, I don’t want to share much with you. You Are Not A Banana is short, and anything I tell you about beyond the title screen will spoil things that can’t be spoiled if you want to get the full banana for your buck.
So let’s talk tangibles, which is the game-review equivalent of discussing the brands of the paints on the canvas. ("This artist used Sennelier paints, but it would have been better using Gamblin.")
The graphics are stock-standard RPGmaker-type assets, which is why it’s surprising to see the “powered by Unity” logo appear on loading the game. I don’t know about you, but I tend to associate the Unity engine with awkward running animations and uncanny-valley lighting effects, not 16-bit style graphics. Regardless, it’s a nice looking version of that classic style, and the developer does some things with transparencies and layering that we’ve seen done before in bigger games but still look good. There are reasons why certain styles get to be called timeless, after all.
The developer tried some interesting gameplay stuff, considering how short the game is. Again, I won’t spoil anything precisely, because discovery is the main point of a game like this. Suffice to say that you’ll be doing some things that are familiar, and some things that aren’t familiar, and that is a feat worth seeing in a game that looks like this.
Will I Slip On?
I think not. It takes half an hour to see everything there is to see in the game, and while it’s interesting enough for a playthrough it’s not interesting enough for a second playthrough (a fact which I verified by playing a second playthrough, hence the 52 minutes of playtime). I suppose you could play more if you really like some of the action sequences, which are competently executed and fun for what they are.
Is it the Dark Souls of the musa genus?
Sure, why not? There’s no way to die in You Are Not A Banana, but if you’re not paying attention to things you didn’t know you were supposed to pay attention to, then you can be stuck beating yourself against a wall for a long time. Some of the puzzles are a little opaque, and I had to consult a walkthrough. If you find that any part of the game is taking more than ten or fifteen minutes, look it up because something is wrong. The question of whether the game should have told you better or not is a question I leave to the sort of people who like having Games Versus Art arguments.