A big, hairy, gun toting, ball of fury. That’s what comes to mind when I think of genetically mutated apes. Crisis on the Planet of the Apes promises players a chance to climb, leap, and shoot their way to freedom as just such an ape. Naturally, I was all in from that point on.
To a fault, the developers at Imaginati, make good on this promise. You do indeed run, climb, leap, and even rain down sweet freedom on your human captors. Unfortunately, the experience is such that you are never immersed enough to feel like an actual ape. Let’s take a look at Crisis on the Planet of the Apes.
The Worlds Gone Ape
The concept here is pretty simple. Expand a little slice of the Planet of the Apes universe and give players, and fans, a chance to experience it. The story revolves around an intelligent ape that has been captured and brought to a human-run research facility. On one side we have the CDC who is trying to figure out why Apes are immune to a flu that has decimated the human population.
On the other side we have soldiers that seem to dislike working with the CDC, and downright hate your monkey ass. Stuck in the middle is you and all your fellow captured apes who must try and reclaim their freedom. To do this, you climb, leap, and shoot your way through the facility until you make it back to the jungle.
This story works. Sure, it’s not very compelling, despite the emotional attachment they try to instill for your fellow apes. However, it fits along with the bigger picture of the movie’s universe and you have a sense of what’s going on and why.
The Ape I am
The gameplay, unfortunately, is where the game starts to fall apart. The way you interact with the game world is almost completely scripted. You are told where to go, shown exactly how to get through any parts that do actually give you a bit of freedom, and face off in little wave shooter like situations in between.
The end result is a feeling of never really being in control of your character. In VR, this is painfully immersion breaking and makes the entire thing feel more like a point and click adventure. The worst part of all of this, is that the areas that do give you a little freedom are incredibly fun. Imaginati, you got the gift, but it looks like your waiting for something.
Swing Those Ape Arms
Controlling your ape avatar is a mixed bag of good and bad. On one hand, gripping, climbing, jumping, and even running all feel pretty great. Unfortunately, they baked the movement into this strange point and click, then swing your arms type of system. Yes, this does tie into the negatives I pointed out in the gameplay section.
My issue here is that if you are going to have a system in place that tells me where I need to go, don’t make me highlight it, then click on it, then perform an action to trigger movement. I already was not a fan of this scripted movement, but when I found out that I would be going through this process every few steps, it become a chore.
Now, this style of movement wasn’t all bad. While in combat, the “dash to location” style of locomotion, mixed with the griping of objects to maneuver yourself was fucking brilliant. I enjoyed that part, even if it was just for wave shooting action segments.
A Bleak World
Graphically, we get another mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, things don’t really look that bad. It definitely won’t be winning any awards, but it is on par with what we have seen in many VR games. The character models look good, guns look good, and the interface objects all look great. The world and effects are a little lackluster though. They lack any real texture to them, and the lighting is very basic.
The problem I have here, is with the environment. I am not sure why it has no collision detection but being able to pass through world objects that you also need to interact with is a pain in the ass. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than sticking your head through a pipe as you swing from one to the next, they slap a black screen with an error message in front of your eyes. Just, no.
The audio department is okay. You get decent voice acting and some fairly generic effects that work well enough. The 3D audio worked well enough that I could tell what direction enemy fire was coming from, so no real complaints there. The environmental effects felt really flat though, and that didn’t help make an already lackluster environment feel any more alive.
So, it is pretty clear that this game has some pretty big issues. Climbing, swinging, and the combat are all pretty fun. However, moving through this game everywhere else is scripted and ended up making me feel like the test ape for all the wrong reasons. Worst still, was being able to stick your head into world objects and then being blinded for it by an error message.
I can’t help but wonder why the developers decided to bake in such an odd style of movement in the majority of the game? If this had been built as a giant playground that just used free locomotion, mixed with their dash mechanics for combat cover, this would have been an incredible experience. I truly hope they take some of the great ideas from this game and go on to make something amazing from them. The skill is definitely there.
Of course, don’t take my word for it, go play and find out for yourself! You can pick up Crisis on the Planet of the Apes for the Rift, Vive, and WMR. They have a special 33% off promotion going until April 16, bringing the price down to a fair $10. Not bad for an hour of entertainment. The developers are also looking at feedback and working on a patch to fix some common complaints about the game. That’s what we like to see from this community! Happy hunting VR gamers.