Crisis on the Planet of the Apes is a new VR game from IMAGINATI and FoxNext where you play the role of a captured ape in a story set between Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2017). Interestingly, the two-hour narrative-action title allows you to step into the shoes of an ape from beginning to end and it fully immerses you throughout the whole experience. Be aware though, in order to play this game, you must be able to stand up and turn around, have a high tolerance of pain, and not be too fussed about a lack of free-exploration.
Not everything is great though, there are some issues I had with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes and some things I felt that could have been done better. So, come with me as I grab a banana and swing into action in a VR experience which turns out to be a pretty fun game…
*All images are from the PSVR Social screen and the PS4 system – PSVR is much more immersive when playing yourself*
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes revolves around our protagonist, a captured ape who is about to be imprisoned by the humans. Before you are locked away, you are given your name via a branding on your hand – you will be known as ‘139’. On a side note, this reminded me of Karl Pilkington from one of his ‘Monkey News’ segments on the XFM Ricky Gervais Show where they were talking about a circus many years ago where they had to refer to monkeys and apes as numbers because all the names had been taken… but I digress. Basically, you were captured because the simian flu has spread across the globe and the humans have captured the ‘intelligent apes’ in order to try and uncover a cure – I guess we should be happy they think we are intelligent.
Once you’re safely locked away in your own cage, the humans underestimate you as you plan to escape with the help of a fellow in-(pri)mate. Crisis on the Planet of the Apes will take you through various narrative scenes as you move throughout the factory and spy on the humans, combat sequences with one of the best cover mechanics I’ve seen in a VR game, and even engages you with a kind of underwhelming boss battle.
Some people may have an issue with the fact that you aren’t free to go where you wish as you must abide by set designated waypoints, but I never had an issue with this as the 2 hour experience I had was really fun and other than a few issues I had with my arms, I thought the game was well put together and delivered its story in a great way. Also, prior knowledge of any of the latest Planet of the Apes films isn’t needed as this is a self-contained story which explains everything, although if you have seen them then you will get the references thrown in and have more of a backstory to the action. So, let’s dive into the mechanics…
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes is operated with two move controllers and you are first treated to the visual change of your arms, which have turned into massive hands and very, very hairy arms – something I’m glad I’m not like in real life! The main thing I didn’t like at first, and never really got used to, is that you cannot turn in the game as this is yet another game that’s come from initially being designed for a room-scale PC VR system (This has now changed since a recent update). So, in order to get the full experience, you must either be sat in a way that you can rotate at least 180 degrees, or you must be stood up. I get the whole immersion thing, but sometimes the developers forget that PSVR is based on the lights of the lollipops, which can be hidden if you are turning around a lot.
Walking isn’t as fun either – when you’re able to walk in the narrative moments, you will see a ghost of yourself, you reach out and ‘grab’ the ghost with one of the move controllers then the game asks you to swing your arms like you’re *’doing the Mario’ – however, I found that holding the move button and then acting like you are hitting a punching bag, in a rolling motion, seems to work just as well and gets your character to move much faster.
You will also have times where you can jump by thrusting both arms up at the same time, this is met with a ‘tunnel vision’ effect so you don’t get any motion sickness from the movements. The game does a great job of stopping you from feeling motion sick throughout the game in my opinion. However, these basic moments are child’s play compared to the main movement mechanic – what is it that all monkeys and apes like to do…?
Simians love to climb and swing and soon, you’ll be the king of the swingers – well, the king of the climbers. There is a lot of climbing and stretching out in order to traverse vertically up walls and structures within Crisis on the Planet of the Apes. This leads to a lot of pain in your arms if you’re not used to stretching a lot and being very active during a game – think back to the Wii days. I both loved and hated these sections for various reasons.
I loved these sections as it fully immersed you as you reach out, grab a wall and pull it towards you as you seemingly climb up the wall, swing across pipes, dangle on a rope 40ft off the ground with one hand whilst shooting enemies with your other hand, and generally act like Spider-Man. Yes, whilst playing the game all I could think about was how much I would love a Spider-Man VR game which has this mechanic.
I wasn’t too fond of these sections because you don’t swing, you’re as stiff as a plank of wood – so whilst dangling from something, you have no momentum, you can just put your arms out in front of you and you will go horizontal – I would have loved some physics here, even if it was an option as I imagine it’s like this for motion sickness people. The constant climbing does create pain in your arms as you perform these sections as many times you will be forced to stretch out really far in order to find things to grab onto.
Finally, when climbing up walls, you have to be careful when getting on the roof of the building as quite often I would get up but then fall down until only my head was poking out of the floor – yet another room-scale issue because it’s on PSVR and not on PC. I managed to overcome this issue by forcing myself further onto the roof, but it was annoying, to say the least when suddenly you’re just a head poking out the floor!
Suddenly, Crisis on the Planet of the Apes makes up for its unusual choice in movement mechanics with the rather good combat ones. Throughout the game, you will handle two weapons, until the boss battle, a machine gun and a shotgun. you can place the guns on your back by just releasing it there and then grab it at any point in the future when needed and you can store both guns at the same time, one on each side. The problem I had with this was, you must hold down the move button in order to hold the gun – release it and you drop it, which can sometimes lead to you being unable to retrieve it again. However, I did find that if that’s the case then you can just pull another gun off your back most of the times.
Another small issue was the ammo situation. You have one clip at a time and once you run out you must look around the environment to find ammo to reload before you can shoot again. It’s not too bad as there is plenty lying around, but it can be a bit annoying that you can’t carry a spare clip. Regarding the actual combat sections, it’s all cover-based and you have set locations you can stand, similar to Bravo Team. In order to move to one of these combat points, you reach out and grab the ghost, like you do in movement, only this time you do an *’Ace Ventura’ motion with your arm and you’ll instantly warp there. Again, some people may not like that you have set locations, but I found it allowed the game to set up the enemies in the right place so you don’t get ambushed for standing in the wrong place.
*Ace Ventura motion (but one-handed)
However, this leads me to one of the single best mechanics I’ve seen in a PSVR shooter game so far – the cover mechanic! I hope other studios use this mechanic in their games going forward as I can see games like House of the Dead or Virtua Cop using it (if we ever get one of those). Basically, whereas you have a gun in one hand (you can hold one in both, but let’s just say one for now), the other hand can grip onto the scenery in front of you. With this hand, you can lift or lower the thing in front, so a crate, wall, window, table etc… Basically – in-game you’re not lifting things up, but you are positioning your character as you take cover. So, lift your arm up and you’re in cover, then slowly put it down as you peer over the top and either blind-shoot the enemy or get in some shots whilst they reload.
Seriously, when playing Crisis on the Planet of the Apes, you see how smoothly and easily this mechanic works – it makes cover-based shooters in VR possible without a definitive in and out of cover motion, just being able to peer a little over cover in order to aim and shoot makes this game head an shoulders above the rest. Oh, I briefly touched on the boss fight, I won’t tell you about it as it’s not very special but I don’t want to give away everything before you buy it, but you do get the use of a new, much bigger gun in this section followed by a rather touching cutscene.
One of the biggest issues will be the longevity of Crisis on the Planet of the Apes – I’ve seen people complain that it’s only an hour long, some say 40 minutes, and some a few hours. I’ve spent about two hours on my first playthrough and I’m about to go back to get the other trophies. There are various trophies for completing certain missions without being shot, in a certain time, or at different difficulties – however, there is a chapter select option so jumping back to any of these is nice and easy. There is no replayability though if you wish to just see any ‘what if’ moments because there aren’t any – it’s a very linear experience.
Being linear doesn’t make this a bad game though – the game isn’t very expensive and it has a decent mix of narrative, walking and combat thrown in there to justify the price. Just don’t go into the game expecting a multi-layered story with various options – if that’s what you want, maybe try out the Planet of the Apes: The Last Frontier Playlink game I reviewed a while ago as that offers a 6+ hours narrative experience with multiple choices which moulds the on-screen story.
Graphically, Crisis on the Planet of the Apes is a bit dark but that’s because everything takes place at night. Characters are well detailed and the models of the humans and apes you encounter are really good, it’s just not easy to appreciate most of them in the dimly lit rooms and areas. I did encounter a few issues with the visuals, like the whole ‘falling through the floor’ events and being able to put my face through the ceiling due to being as stiff as a plank of wood whilst climbing – but this never detracted me from my fun.
Audio-wise, the game is great – with the ambient sounds, the perfect sound effects and the cries and growls of apes and humans alike. For me, the sound fully immersed me as I played the game the other day.
Me being a stupid, immature ape:
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes has its flaws, but it also has some great mechanics which could really help other games moving forward into VR. The game is equally split into a narrative, combat and climbing experience, each with their own strengths and weaknesses yet all with their memorable moments. I personally really enjoyed the new cover mechanics and I was intrigued enough to play the story all the way through to see how the game ended. However, I would like the developers to maybe add a free-roam mode for those of us who don’t have motion sickness and maybe an option to spin in-game with a button rather than turning in real life. If you like the Planet of the Apes reboot films then this game should be on your list of games to experience, for everyone else, if you like cover-based shooters or narrative-driven games then be sure to check it out!
Since posting the review, there has been a massive update to Crisis on the planet of the apes. You can now rotate using buttons on the controller, walking has been redefined, you can’t lose your weapon when you drop it, and numerous fixes have been put in place. For me, the fact they have implemented the button-rotate instantly made this game much more appealing and accessible for me. As such, I’ve adjusted my rating from 8/10 to 8.5/10.
Crisis On the Planet of the Apes£11.99
- Really good implementation of a cover mechanic
- Solid combat sections (if a little fiddly)
- Interesting story and characters
- Decent graphics and sound effects
- You get to beat your chest and become an ape in VR!
- No physics when climbing, so it doesn't feel natural
- Set 'waypoints' you can stand in with no free-roam
- Some roofs are made of quicksand which will eat everything but your head
- Some may get through the game within an hour -- although I spent a few hours on my first playthrough