Ever had the urge to go back to the way our primal ancestors lived? There’s plenty of experiences out there to let you do just that, but for many the idea of actually falling from a great height is not the most pleasant. Crisis on the Planet of the Apes allows for players to be one with their simian cousins in VR, which as it turns out is a surprisingly compelling experience, with a lot of problems.
Taking on the role of a prisoner at a scientific research facility, the game tasks the player with escaping the complex. This is easier said than done since you’re an ape and the humans have guns. The story isn’t really that exciting, nor does it have any major ties to the Planet of the Apes universe beyond the setting. It’s competent enough, but doesn’t really get a chance to build much momentum as it’s just bleak and lifeless beyond the first 10 minutes.
Where things really shine is when climbing around the levels. This is thoroughly enjoyable and, if I dare say, a good workout. Swinging on bars and climbing up walls works exactly as I expected it to and while it was a bit on the rails in that there’s little room for deviation, it’s still the most immersive part of the entire experience. This is good, since it’s the bulk of the game outside of shooting soldiers!
Speaking of which, you can pick up guns, motion to sling them behind your back to carry them around with you. This is your inventory, in a way, as it then depends on which shoulder you grab behind which determines the gun you’ll pull out. You don’t have bags of ammo, but there’s usually one clip of ammunition to reload your guns with in each cover you can hide behind, so there’s rarely a moment where you’ll truly run out.
Firing the guns is at least precise and both guns definitely have their advantages in each situation, however one problem is that using the HTC Vive controllers felt unintuitive. The triggers are used to pick up guns and the touch pad used to fire them, but this seems to be a compromise for being compatible with the Rift Touch, as it doesn’t have as many different control options. The current control scheme is being reworked to swap the firing controls, but it still doesn’t feel like enough of an update. I would have liked the option to use the Vive’s grip button to hold onto weapons or walls, and the trigger firing guns, for example.
In fact, aside from an array of climbing sections and shooting sections, there’s very little that sets this apart, if you compare it to the arcade rail-shooters. The only major difference is that it’s a lot more interactive, even if the gameplay can at times feel just like playing Time Crisis with less colourful nonsense.
Clocking in at just over an hour if you take your time, Crisis on the Planet of the Apes isn’t a very long game. Each level is generously littered with checkpoints, shooting sections, ammunition, and things to climb on, and that’s about it. I would have liked to have had a slightly longer campaign with a bit more variety in locations, maybe even a jungle section swinging from tree to tree! For the price – a little under £12 – it’s not a bad showcase for VR.
Even then, it’s not without its bugs. In my playthrough, I mostly got stuck in the geometry, with certain walk prompts not loading. As there’s no option to reload the checkpoint from the pause menu in case something goes wrong, I would have to completely reload the chapter and lose progress. It’s perhaps the most annoying thing in the game and a sign that perhaps some of the fundamentals were skipped while the developers focused on innovating.
It’s clear that Crisis on the Planet of the Apes has a lot of ambition and it does get a lot right in this regard, but at the end of the day, all we have here is a VR tech demo. Climbing around here was the most immersive VR moment I’ve had to date, but the controls could sometimes took me right back out of it. As a showcase for what VR could do in the future, it’s another great example of things to come.
Version Tested: HTC Vive