Planet of the Apes
Yes, over 30 years after the original Planet Of The Apes film was released, it's now to form the basis of a virtual reality videogame, a notion as outlandish as the plot of the film back when Charlton Heston first barked the immortal words: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you... God damn you all to hell!"
Heston was not a happy man, pounding the beach in despair as the credits rolled, the final apocalyptic scene bringing a majestic film to a close. Based on Pierre Boulle's ground-breaking novel, Planet Of The Apes is essentially science fiction as political-sociological allegory, incorporating chilling satire and, most importantly, talking monkeys. Although Heston baled out half an hour into the sequel, the series spanned five instalments of varying quality - all starring Roddy McDowall - as well as spawning a TV show (cancelled after 14 episodes due to lack of interest) and even a cartoon.
All of which takes us up to 1975. Waiting a quarter of a century to release a game may therefore seem a bit of an odd move. However, a quick look at who the publisher is offers a clue, as this is the same Fox as the 20th Century kind (soon to become 21st) that is set to remake the film, rumoured to be starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role made legend by Heston.
So, the game. Billed as an action adventure, you play the role of Ulysses, the sole survivor of a crashed spaceship on an uncharted planet 1000 years into the future. And (if you've never seen the film) you soon discover that evolution has taken a macabre twist whereby apes rule, and humans have been relegated to the lower branches of the evolutionary tree. From a third-person perspective, the story unravels over 15 huge levels, incorporating intelligent puzzles, and skirmishes with a variety of foes including giant bats, mutated rats and rabid hyenas.
Both firepower and discretion will come into play, with three different modes used to negotiate the environment, namely Stealth, Normal and Athletic. In addition to the action elements, the game is set to feature over 2000 lines of dialogue. Some original characters from the films have been maintained, but the game will also introduce two new simian castes, the promisingly named renegade baboons and mandrill assassins.
The game isn't released until next year, so until then you'll just have to drag your knuckles and make like a chimp.
Download Planet of the Apes
At first glance I was expecting to see Marky Mark Wahlberg immortalized on my Game Boy Advance, but I was wrong. Planet of the Apes for the Game Boy Advance actually focuses more on the original 1968 classic rather than the 2001 remake even though it isn't the same story as either. You play an astronaut named Ben who goes in search of Taylor (Charlton Heston's character from the 1968 original). After you crash on Earth 700 years after you left, it's time to follow Taylor's path in hopes of finding out his fate.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Planet of the Apes takes the form of a classic 2D-platform game. Run around, jump, climb, crouch, roll around, pick up some items, confront enemies, and try not to get killed in the process. That's the gist of this game. But don't expect it to play like most other platform titles out there. This particular title falls into an interesting sub-category of 2D-platforms that require more precision, thinking, and timing than your average title. I think this game compares best to three games from about 10 or so years ago: Out of this World, it's sequel Flashback, and Prince of Persia. You could possibly compare it to the more recent Oddworld series of games such as Abe's Oddysee, although the control isn't quite as responsive.
If you've ever played the games I've listed above you know they all have a few things in common: precision control, lots of thinking and perfect timing to move, using the right item in the right location, and that orgasmic animation gracing your TV or monitor. Planet of the Apes falls in with these other games quite nicely and is little different in terms of these qualities.
The control is responsive but you need to be careful how you move. If you tap the D-pad just then you'll walk, but if you hold it down you'll run. The same goes for moving while crouching and rolling. You'll see that there are many times when you find yourself tapping your way across a platform so you don't fall off when you aren't ready. Positioning yourself in the proper place to jump or fall from is critical and it takes some time to get used to how close to the edge you can stand (which actually isn't real close). Surprisingly you cannot climb down ledges, but rather you have to fall to the level below. As with all of these types of platform games, there is a bit of a learning curve to get used to controlling your character because of how the animation interacts.
During the course of the game, you'll acquire a small inventory of weapons, ammo, and health packs. You can select and use these as necessary and you'll find that with limited ammo you need to select the best weapon for the best scenario. There are four weapons you'll come across: knife, pistol, shotgun, and machine gun (and in that order no less). In some cases you may find that the knife is the weapon of choice if you're close to an enemy whereas the machine gun works well against several enemies at once. One minor gripe I have in this category is that the animation frequently gets in the way of practicality. There are times when you just need to whip out your firearm quickly after climbing a ledge or ladder and you have to wait for Ben to finish getting up, then reach for the gun. Meanwhile, you'll most likely take damage while watching this happen so make sure you keep your health up as much as possible (duh). You'll want to be even more careful of this because if you die, you have to start the level over from the beginning. While you can acquire and carry health packs around, you're limited to three at a time in inventory. You'll also find various items that can increase part or all of your health while traveling around. You'll also find little flags that were left behind by Taylor to mark his path. If you can pick up all ten on any level, you'll get an extra health pack on the next level (assuming you can hold another one). At the end of each level you'll be told how long it took you to finish the level, how many enemies you eradicated, how many of Taylor's flags you picked up and receive a password that you can enter later on to continue your game.
When you first turn on the game you have a choice of many languages to play the game in. The menus consist solely of icons and a couple of them are cryptic, such as the one for viewing the game's credits. You can elect to turn the sound on or off, view the credits, play the game from the beginning, or enter a password to continue the game. At the beginning of the game and before certain levels you'll get to see cinematic cut-scenes that unfold the story. Aside from that, there isn't much more to this game, but what more do you really want or need other than great graphics, animation, and gameplay anyway?
This is a single player only game.
The highest points of the game are definitely the graphics and animation. The graphics are very detailed and bright and they pack quite a bit on the screen at any one time. Because of the amount of stuff shown on the screen you may have a hard time seeing some of the items you can pick up. I also found that I did try to pick up some things I thought were items, but turned out to be something in the background. Aside from that, you can clearly tell the background from the foreground making it easier to see where not to step. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and have a nice parallax scrolling effect. The art in the cut scenes is pretty decent, but not quite as good as the art during gameplay (although it appeared that the cut scenes were trying to intentionally look more like drawings than the game itself). The animation is phenomenal. Every action that Ben and all other creatures, whether they're enemies or just background, do is very smoothly animated.
Most of the audio falls in the music category. The music is very dramatic and well done. It's quite fitting for a game like this. As you get to different environments in the game, the music will change. The sound effects, however, are limited. There are sounds for firing a gun, slicing away with the knife, "ugh"s from taking damage and other simple sounds for other things that happen. They sound good, but there's nothing fabulous or ear-popping though. There is an option for turning off the music, but it also turns off the sound effects too. It probably doesn't matter anyway as the game would be pretty silent without the music anyway.
Since there isn't much in terms of how to play, there isn't much in terms of the manual. It just goes over your basic functions and lays out the different items for you with a quick explanation. There are a couple mistakes in the manual and a couple controls are not explained at all, but you'll probably figure out the game before you ever even touch the manual anyway'that's assuming you even touch it to begin with.
This is a fun game if you like precision over fast action. In terms of gameplay, Planet of the Apes can be compared to games such as Out of this World, Flashback, Prince of Persia, and possibly some Oddworld games. Don't expect to be running and jumping like Sonic or Mario, but rather you'll need to work your way through each level with caution. The game can be a bit frustrating as you have to go back to the beginning of the level if you die, but you can play through as many times as you like. Overall this is a game with great graphics, incredible animation, decent sound, and solid gameplay. I would recommend anyone who enjoys any of the classics listed above or just wants a challenging platform game go out and get your stinking paws on a copy, you damned dirty game player.