A Beautiful Playground For Apes – Gibbon: Beyond the Trees

A stunning exploration of the jungle from the perspective of apes, Gibbon: Beyond the Trees has a powerful message without spoiling the experience.

Take to the trees and swing like a pro in Gibbon: Beyond the Trees – the latest game from Broken Rules and to grace multiple platforms a year after it was launched on Apple Arcade. Featuring some truly gorgeous visuals, authentic ambient sounds, heartfelt scenes and parkour like it’s nobody’s business, what’s not to like?

In Gibbon: Beyond the Trees, you play a gibbon. There’s your first revelation. It begins with the peace of Mother Nature until The Man shows up and effs it up for everyone. There are ten chapters in the game, and once you’ve completed the story, you can drop into any chapter you like. The expected playtime for the story is about an hour, and while that is typically subjective, that’s an accurate assumption.

The reason for the pacing is Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is a side-scroller, and once you progress past an area, you can’t go back – it’s constant momentum. I played with a gamepad and only needed the shoulder buttons. The left button was for running and sliding, and the right is for swinging. Though movements aren’t automated, the controls are intuitive enough as you simply hold the swing button to… swing, then letting go jumps to the next section. You can hold the button throughout, but that slows you down.

Mind the gap. Source: Screen capture

Around mid-way through, you’ll learn a new move – the backflip. Holding left when exiting a jump will spin your ape around, and as long as you connect the next move, you’ll get a little boost. For the first part of the game, your companion will give you an assist, swinging you into the air to clear awkward gaps/to reach safety.

Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is a beautiful-looking game with some of the most spectacular backgrounds I’ve seen in a game – they’re stunning. While I could never get tired of the visuals, I have to admit, I did get complacent with the story. Sorry to shatter your imagination, but apes don’t speak in a language we understand, so there’s no dialogue. 

There are no tasks in the story mode other than to keep swinging, and after chapter four, it did become a bit of a chore. Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is on the fringes of a chill game as it’s a visual treat, and those ambient sounds are lovely, but there are the odd areas where you have to repeat them should you fall to your death. That said, it’s not a challenging game in the slightest, and despite The Man being evil, there are no real interactions with the NPCs; just look out for fire and gravity.

Broken Rules previously made Old Man’s Journey. It also had a touching story, but a little easier to connect with despite them both being void of dialogue. Perhaps it’s the lack of puzzle-solving in this new game? Regardless, by the time you complete it – which you will – there’s an expected message about the real threats that the gibbons face. It’s not remotely preachy and having just finished the story, you may (hopefully) feel inclined to do your part. No, I’m not going to get preachy, but hopefully, Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is one of those games that can spark some change in our habits?

Back to Gibbon: Beyond the Trees, and yes, it’s all very pleasant, and despite the short runtime, it feels a little long in areas due to doing the same thing. After completing the story, you unlock Liberation mode, where you play as Lilac and must save caged animals. I prefer this over the story mode as the transitions to new areas were swift, and you had a task other than side-scrolling. The only downside to this feature was restarting upon death.

There are something like 100 animals to save, plus quite a few achievements awarded for exploration and experimentation. This mode saved the game for me as it warrants plenty more playthroughs.

Gibbon: Beyond the Trees was released a year ago on Apple Arcade, and having read the reviews on it before, I may be in the minority in saying it’s flawed in places. In no way is this a bad game, but the story mode did drag for me a little, lacking in objectives other than ‘escape’. The message is crucial, irrespective of gameplay, but you still want a game to play, right? That additional mode makes the difference, and jumping back into various chapters also has its moments. There’s no doubt about it; this is a stunning game but one you’ll play in short bursts.

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