The Retro Critic

Planet Of The Apes

Originally, I was leaning towards reviewing some kind of Donkey Kong game to coincide with the release of new film Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes but I was soon beaten to it by Joshua Caleb’s fab RetroHate column where he checked out Donkey Kong Land for the Game Boy.

Luckily, the Playstation 1 soon came to my rescue with the simply titled Planet Of The Apes.

Or, as I like to call it, “Ape Raider.”

Yes, this Planet Of The Apes, released alongside Tim Burton’s universally loathed cinematic effort back in 2001, plays a little bit like the poor man’s Tomb Raider. Luckily, it borrows far more plot-wise from the original 1968 film and its sequels than the aforementioned re-imagining.

This should be fun. After all, I love Tomb Raider!

Now, I won’t go too linear or too deep into the plot of this one since it’s one of those “pick up clues” problem-solving games, with the occasional mindless burst of gorilla clubbing, of course.

Clubbin Ape

The fights are rather odd in this game in that, if you block the enemy’s attack, you’re fine and vice-versa so it’s like your character has some kind of force-field he can summon at will. Eventually, you do pick up weapons and you are finally allowed to be a little more stealthy but, until then, happy clubbing.

The game opens with a cinematic intro that’s actually pretty involving. I mean, sure it’s basically the original film again with some astronauts crashing on a random planet, but the tone is defined well enough and the build-up is paced well enough that it is surprisingly entertaining. Which is not to say that a couple of things didn’t make me chuckle during that very same intro.

First, this creepy moment amusingly ruined by the dumbest remark anyone’s probably ever made:

Dead Apes

I’ll say!

She’s not just dead, she’s crazy dead.

The second thing that made me chuckle had to do with the graphics, sadly.

Just look at what the first female character we’re introduced to looks like and I dare you to tell me that everything’s totally normal:

Astronaut Ape

Never mind the fact that this suit is essentially painted on, what’s with the Bobblehead?

She looks like Inspector Gadget’s wife in mid Go-Go Gadget Neck action!

But the slightly off look doesn’t end there, oh no. This game admittedly does boast a lot of effort when it comes to telling its story and keeping its gameplay coherent but, often, it is let down by some bizarre visuals which are not only dated but which looked a bit silly even back then.

This guy doesn’t so much look like an ape as he does a badly photoshopped 1970’s Justin Long wearing some kind of army jacket.


Dr Zaius, by the way, looks like an ape-ified thumb, for some reason.

Dr Zaius

As for the already glitchy holograms…

Hologram Ape


I swear his mouth was in his eye like a second ago.

Cornelius Gasp

It sure is, Cornelius.

It sure is.

Your plan, as a prisoner, is initially to just escape from beneath the planet of the apes but, as the game goes on, more people are revealed to be involved in a much bigger story and you’re soon hunting down keys, medikits, key cards and whatever else. Stopping every so often to chat with a good ape or another human, evidently.

Now I know this one’s human:

Nova Ape

But I’m honestly not sure about this one:

Face Girl Ape

But enough about the graphics, I could go on forever about them.

Suffice it to say: it’s a madhouse.

A madhouse!!!

Some have panned this game completely, others have enjoyed it a lot and I would actually have to agree with the latter camp. Sort of. Despite the game’s many flaws, it’s still an involving adventure with a fun plot which gets very sci-fi at times, especially near the end. Granted it’s a bit glitchy, the controls are nowhere near as smooth as in the early Tomb Raider games and the fact that 90% of the action takes place underground or somewhere dark makes it feel slightly claustrophobic.

They had a whole planet to work with and they settled on ape mining vessels and air vents?

Damn, dirty apes…

Your character, Ulysses, sure gets up to a lot of craziness in this game from saving tied-up slave children:

Child Ape

To killing dogs by blasting them in the face with a rifle:

Dogs Ape

Another thing that Lara Croft loved doing back in the day, incidentally.

Still, as far as movies-to-game adaptations go, this one’s not too bad. I’ve played far, far worse. At least it wilfully ignores the bad Planet Of The Apes movie and attempts to give us a worthy homage to the best installment in the franchise. Plus I’m a sucker for third-person adventure games so, unless they’re really unplayable for some reason, it’s not weird that I mostly enjoyed it ok.

Even with its stinker writing:

Apes Not Stupid

And its sometimes random graphics:

Hooves Ape

Didn’t know apes had hooves…

Overall, the game looks decent enough, though, and, like I said, there’s something oddly compelling about its plot which kinda goes nowhere but also goes some interesting places once in a while. It’s no masterpiece but it’s no disaster either, it’s well worth a go I’d say.

Even the loading screens have a minimalist charm to them!

Planet Of The Loading