Imaginati Studios brings us Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, a journey placed between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. Being a fan I was chomping at the bit to get hold of this, the big question is will it live up to expectations? So time to find out if it is a mighty silverback or whether it’s made a monkey out of us.
I think I will have to use the word ‘gameplay’ as a very loose interpretation. The concept behind Planet of the Apes: Last frontier is quite simply to make an interactive movie. I’ve watched plenty of movies and thought to myself ‘I wouldn’t have done it like that’, so I was very intrigued to see how I could affect the course of the action. You essentially take 2 parts in this saga, one human, and one ape. The story plays out from one side for a while, and then changes to the other, much as you would expect from a movie. You get a choice of 2 decisions from time to time, mainly focused on the dialogue. There is no real ‘go left’ or ‘go right’ decision making, it’s more ‘be angry’ or ‘be sympathetic’ and then see how the rest of the scene plays out. You can experience Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier in a multiplayer mode. If you have three people playing it goes with the majority, but if there is an even number of participants then some form of compromise must be found as one player needs to change their decision. I roped my family in and we decided that hand to hand combat was the best way of ironing out any disagreements. The multiplayer mode is available through a downloaded app, so you do not need to all have controllers. this is a very handy little feature.
Did it work?
In a word, no. The further into the experience, the more you realise that you are just a bystander and your actions do not actually have that much effect on the way the story goes. The whole point of the game seems to be to develop the 2 main characters. You can make them nice, law abiding, fearless, forgiving etc… but you cannot really alter the story, just sit back knowing that you did the right thing. The more the story progresses, the more tiresome the constant interruptions seem to be. My family were becoming restless and irritated by the whole experience.
First of all to liven it up we started adding our own script. We all took the roles in the scene and just spouted out what we thought they would say. This was vastly more entertaining than the actual script that was sadly becoming incredibly predictable. We kept this up for a good 10 minutes before we actually realised that we were genuinely no longer interested in what happened to the apes or the humans. I panicked, what else could I do.
Secondly, I found the settings and changed the language of the subtitles so we now had no idea what was going on. I selected Spanish a language I knew nothing about except how to order 4 beers. This was an unlikely scenario for either of the two sides in this conflict. We read out loud the subtitles in our best Spanish accents for about 5 minutes and made unknown decisions about our 2 heroes.
This was as interesting as it got. I love the revamped films, I own them all on DVD, but this was killing it for me. I awaited the decision of ‘poop in your hand and throw it at the humans’, but unfortunately this never arose as I’m sure this would have saved the entire experience. Well to be fair, I could have missed it as I do not know what that would have been in Spanish.
The best way to describe Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is to liken it to a racing driving lesson. Drive for a bit, then park up and discuss how to take the next corner, then go round it and park up, choose how to take the next one, etc… You feel like you are involved, but in reality the track will always go the same direction and you will always ultimately reach the end or crash
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier does a couple of things well, and one is the graphics. There is a sense of realism. The direction on these cut scenes creates a very good atmosphere and it does feel like a movie at times. It does however feel like a string of cut scenes all strung together at times, though this isn’t helped by the constant interruptions of alleged gameplay.
The audio is pretty good, the sound effects and the speech are both good. The atmosphere is built up well. The voice actors bring a good sense of realism to the script despite probably feeling frustrated at only having their vocal talents on display. Close your eyes and you would think this was a film. Obviously you cant do this as the action keeps stopping for decisions to be made.
May games be forever games and movies be forever movies. Unless the actions of the player mean something, then I fail to see the point of Planet of the Apes: Last frontier. I can’t see this genre making waves in the future, and I can’t see Planet of the Apes lasting long at all. For this style of experience to survive it needs to be a lot more intuitive. Maybe I expect too much, maybe this is just a feeler into the genre? The graphics and audio have just about saved this experience for me, but only just
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.