Nature and humanity’s mutual influence on each other is a tale as old as time; often about survival, struggling, beauty and danger. Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is about a similar tale told from nature’s perspective. The player controls a wild Gibbon with a penchant for long jumps and somersaults as they traverse through a jungle, swinging and leaping from one area to the next, going from home to danger, seeking to save their family from a grim fate.
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is not just a game, but also a very deliberate and delicate message about real ecological issues. Real-life dangers are an essential part of the warning the developer Broken Rules are trying to make clear. So it begs to question whether the delivery is effective. Keep your eyes open and be ready to swing forward - the answer lies beyond the trees.
The Good - Return to Monke
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is a 2D platformer with a twist where the player, rather than jumping on top and running on the provided platforms, is meant to swing from under them. The movement follows a simple yet satisfying formula: swinging is faster, more efficient and can take the player to higher and more interesting paths; this is in contrast to the game’s running which is slow and less rewarding with the occasional exception in sliding segments (but it can help the player reposition themselves). The controls are simple and demonstrate the gibbon’s natural penchant for swinging, making the gameplay very intuitive. It’s very satisfying to learn as the player can pick up a lot of speed as they swing through branches, cables, and balconies.
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees is also fully hand-drawn and it makes for beautiful picturesque scenarios throughout. Every chapter and stage is unique and seamlessly leads into the next one, making the experience feel like a single continuous movie scene. The colours pop, making sure the scenarios are full of personality, serving the stylised look of the game wonderfully. The bright pink colour of the main character is not only great for making them recognisable at a glance, but it is also the perfect way to keep track of the gibbon’s location amidst high-speed, colourful platforming.
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees tells its story without words, making full use of the spectacular art style to deliver excellence in the visual storytelling aspect; Gibbons can’t talk, but the player would be hard-pressed to not know exactly what they are going through as they advance through the game and see how expressive and articulate they can be. The game tells its story of fear, determination, danger, and love without a single word and absolutely crushes it.
- Simple, intuitive gameplay
- Beautiful backgrounds and art style
- Good visual storytelling
The bad - Not Enough Monkeying Around
Although the gameplay of Gibbon: Beyond the Trees can be very satisfying once the player gets the hang of it, the truth is that past that point, it could have used a little more depth. It doesn’t take long for the experience to start feeling bland. Once the player gets into the swing of things (heh), it is made clear that there’s not a lot to it: it’s all swinging and running, without the option to stop to take a look at the beautiful scenarios or find things such as collectibles, power-ups or secret passages. There are exactly two extra mechanics to movement: backflipping for a minor speed boost and timing your releases, and neither is particularly engaging long-term.
Most of the game’s scenarios offer nothing new at a second glance other than maybe a chance to take a better look at the artstyle. This is a point where the game truly works against itself: the game auto-scrolls forward and the gibbon never truly stops moving, which means that it’s hard to truly take in the beautiful hand-drawn art of the game and appreciate the visuals that are not moving at high speed alongside the titular Gibbon. And in return, all that the player truly needs to do is pay minimal attention and repeat the basic controls. It makes for a gameplay that’s satisfying in the short-term, but playing feels very bland the longer the game goes on. Overall, it feels like a missed opportunity to capitalise on a big strength that Gibbon: Beyond the Trees has going for it.
To top it off, Gibbon is far from a long game. Although the story is delivered at a decent pace and each stage has enough identity and visuals to stand by themselves, the combination of the game’s speed, the fact that there is no way to truly stop moving and the stage designs not being much longer than strictly necessary makes Gibbon: Beyond the Trees feel extremely short. It is very easy to finish the game in one sitting while fully digesting the story, and at best, can feel like one or two stages might be worth a redo just to fix some fumbled jumps. There’s not much to it in terms of replayability. While short games are fine, in Gibbon: Beyond the Trees, the short duration, lack of replayability and lack of content feels like a disservice to what good is there.
- Gameplay becomes bland once you learn the basics
- Short duration, just about enough to deliver its story
- Not a lot of content or replay value
Final Score: 6/10
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees has a singular problem that rears its ugly head in many indie games: I simply wish that there was more of it. The base is very solid, the message is important and what parts are good are indeed VERY good. It’s just a shame that it didn’t push its gameplay a little further forward. It is an excellent short story and a stunning visual experience, but just short of a truly fulfilling gaming experience. Although, I would still recommend the game for those that are in the mood for something short and sweet.
On a final note, the devs of Gibbon: Beyond the Trees have created the game to raise awareness of the ecological problems that have been endangering wild gibbons and on their official site, many resources for programs and organisations dedicated to helping these amazing creatures can be found. If you enjoyed the review and/or the game, or you’re simply someone that truly cares about ecological matters, I urge you to check them out at https://www.gibbongame.com/gibbons.html.
Thank you for checking out our Gibbon: Beyond the Trees Switch review, thank you to Broken Rules (via Future Friends Games) for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: