Gibbon: Beyond the Trees, A Gorgeous Endless "Runner" With A Story (Hands-On Preview)
Disclaimer: We received a near-final build of the game in exchange for an honest preview. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own and not influenced by Future Friends Games, and/or its affiliates, in any way.
It's been a while since I've played an endless runner - the last one I remember being Subway Surfer or some other Canabalt clone. So when the opportunity to check out Gibbon: Beyond the Trees arrived, I expressed my interest and boy, I was glad I did. Gibbon is the latest game from Broken Rules, an indie development studio known for the award-winning Old Man's Journey back in 2017, and I gotta say it lived up to my expectations. I received access to a near-final build of the game to give my impressions and here are my thoughts.
Right off the bat, we are treated with gorgeously stylish graphics that the devs are known for. The game has some of the most luscious greenery I've ever seen (until the destruction set in and even then it also looked stunning). Playing the game felt like watching the pages of a masterfully illustrated picture book come to life, Gibbon is a treat for the eyes. The animation for the colourful apes was also well-executed - swinging from tree to tree looked and felt great.
In terms of gameplay, Gibbon is pretty straightforward. There are no points to score in this game - you move from left to right of the screen, jumping, sliding and somersaulting along the way to avoid obstacles in your way. By paying attention to the changes in the background, you can deduce the story of what's going on around you. You play a lost (pink) gibbon who embarks on a dangerous journey into unknown lands and uncover the plight of creatures around the world. Yes, it isn't all fun and games - the story contains some very real issues faced by the animal kingdom. Following the story isn't mandatory but it adds to the experience of the game.
The controls took a while to get used to (coming from other endless runners) and eventually felt adequate and "right" to use. Tap and hold one finger to swing from branch to branch, release your finger to let go of your branch and fling yourself forward, tap and hold with two fingers to slide down branches/trunks, or run on the ground, and swipe any direction to perform a somersault while in the air (gaining speed once it completes).
Gibbon reminded me a lot of Skate City (another Apple Arcade game) despite having completely different subject matter, they both have breathtaking visuals and are easy to pick up but hard to master. Yes, don't let its charming appearance fool you. Gibbon gets challenging at times, and it is possible to fail. There are sections in the game where you are required to jump across an obstacle - be it a huge ravine or a stretch of wildfire - and failing to do so leads to your death.
This brings me to my main gripe with the game: checkpoints. Since they aren't very frequent, it can make the game feel a bit repetitive as you'll have to swing for a bit before reaching the obstacle you have to retry. It would have helped if your character moved a tad faster but I guess it was done this way so you could enjoy the scenery at the same time.
Once you're finished with the story, there's an endless mode for you to play around with if you can't get enough brachiation action on your phone. All in all, Gibbon is a fun and entertaining endless runner that's worth checking out for the brilliant visuals alone. If you're expecting something more complex, this game isn't for you. However, if you want something that's light and easy to pass some time, I'd recommend it. Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is available now on Apple Arcade.