Damned dirty humans! Haven’t our primate friends suffered enough of late? While Tim Burton’s remake of the classic film “Planet of the Apes” climbed to the top of box office charts its first week, it quickly fizzled out when word-of-mouth spread around to movie go’ers. Not only was the flick unexciting, the ending made no logical sense. No wonder Tim Burton recently said he wouldn’t direct a sequel.
And now, Ubi Soft, Fox Interactive and Visiware have teamed up to bring the enduring franchise to the PC, among other platforms. Originally announced at E3 2000, Planet of the Apes disappeared into the brush until about a month ago, when Ubi Soft and co. re-announced the acquisition of the rights to publish games based on the classic novel. The turnaround was swift as Planet of the Apes made its way to store shelves within a few weeks with little fanfare, often an omen that the product isn’t all that great and not worth hyping in the first place. While there are exceptions to the rule, Planet of the Apes, unfortunately, is not one of them.
Developed by Visiware, Planet of the Apes is a third-person action-adventure game that draws from Pierre Boulle’s classic novel “Planet of the Apes”, as well as the original film, “Planet of the Apes” and the second film, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, as opposed to the recent Tim Burton remake. Players assume the role of Ulysses, a U.S. astronaut who, along with three colleagues, heads off into deep space on an exploration mission, only to wind up crash-landing on an unidentified planet.
As the game opens, Ulysses has been captured by the apes and placed in a cell where the apes are preparing to perform unenviable experiments on their human subjects. It’s up to you to escape the confines of the medical research centre and figure out the what, where and how’s of the whole situation. The end result is a third-person action-adventure game that’s as generic as it gets. You’ll wander around the game’s environments, solve puzzles and combat various enemies when the need arises.
If you can call it that, most of the puzzle solving in Planet of the Apes revolves around object manipulation, in order to unlock further portions of a level. Sometimes these activities involve keys and consoles, other times it's simply a matter of coming across a set point in the level that triggers a cutscene, allowing the characters and story to move forward.
Combat is fairly simplistic. You'll likely want to avoid confrontations early in the game whenever possible, since all you have at your disposal are your bare hands, but once you secure a weapon, for which there are a handful, you'll be in business. The artificial intelligence isn't particularly strong. Sometimes enemies get stuck behind objects and other environmental hazards, an issue that players can take advantage of several times throughout the game.
There are a wide variety of apes inhabiting the planet, but the developers have clearly missed an opportunity to take advantage of their genetic abilities while in combat, such as their leaping and climbing prowess. Last but not least, Planet of the Apes suffers from an inability to save games mid-mission. If you die at the hands of an ape in the later stages of a level, you'll have to replay the entire level over again.
Visually, Planet of the Apes is a mixed bag. The game does a commendable job staying in tune with the original movie, loincloth and all, but even the film featured more diverse environments than this. The environments are bland and lifeless, and, when combined with the lacklustre audio components, fails to create an exciting and tense atmosphere.
Planet of the Apes doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a generic action-adventure game. While it stays true to the roots of the classic novel and original films, the game lacks creativity, particularly with respect to puzzles, visuals and combat. When all is said and done, Planet of the Apes simply isn’t very entertaining, so let’s give these primates a break before we go and ruin a good thing.