The Game Boy Advance version of Planet of the Apes is somewhat different, visually, to the Game Boy Color version, although it is basically the same game underneath. Graphically, the GBA version goes for a “digitised”, more realistic look, which I don’t think is as appealing as the pure 2D drawn look of the GBC version. It makes the game look more like an early ’90s Amiga game, which I think dates it significantly.
The intro sequence, and various cut scenes, I don’t think are as well-drawn as those seen in the GBC version. The animation of the main character (called Ben) – while not bad overall – is a little ‘staid’ in places, and I think the standing pose (when he’s not moving) is a bit weird (the proportions don’t seem quite right).
Gameplay-wise, Planet of the Apes on the GBA is more or less the same as the GBC version, but with a few minor differences. You run, jump, crouch, roll, climb and fight your way through a variety of scrolling levels, trying not to fall into traps or get killed by deadly creatures. You’ll run into patrolling apes on occasion and your first line of defence is to attack them with your default knife. You must draw your weapon before you can use it, but cannot climb ledges if it’s drawn so must put it away to continue climbing (which is annoying). You soon acquire a gun and some bullets and can use this to shoot enemies from a distance. An inventory bar at the top of the screen shows which weapon you currently have active and you can cycle through your items before using them. As you explore you find more weapons – a pistol, a shotgun, and then a machine gun – all of which require ammo clips to keep them usable.
For some reason you must collect flags as you make your way through the levels. This just seems a bit pointless to me, and doesn’t really fit in with the story. As far as I can tell, though, these flags are not compulsory, they just increase your score when it’s tallied-up at the end of a level.
You have a health bar, which can be topped-up with health kits, but if you lose a life you must re-start a level from scratch, which is annoying, and it seems that you can re-try infinitely as there are no ‘lives’ as such. If you want to end the game you must manually quit from the pause menu.
Planet of the Apes is an okay game, but nothing spectacular. It does seem like a bit of a missed opportunity, failing to fully exploit the films. I say “films” because the game is more of an amalgamation of the first Planet of the Apes film, and its sequel – 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Towards the end of the game you reach an underground city that is ruled by telepathic humans, just like in the sequel.
A Game Boy Color version of Planet of the Apes, by the same developer (Torus Games), was also released by publisher Ubisoft in 2001. Visiware also developed Planet of the Apes for Windows and PlayStation that same year, although that game is 3D-based and different to the handheld versions. They’re all part of the same family, though.