I’ve done a lot of strange things in my time covering VR. I’ve made out with aliens, saved Baby Shark and braved the nauseous dangers of Rollercoaster Dreams. But none of that even begins to approach the untamed insanity of Tarzan VR.
I suppose that inexplicably infectious trailer song was a bit of a giveaway. In the 90 second video (which I’ve included below because I know you want to hear it again) you can never quite tell if the game is taking itself seriously enough to amount to more than a series of memes.
And that’s the exact same case actually playing Tarzan VR – anytime you try to dig beneath the surface and find anything of substance something profoundly baffling happens. You might hear one of the lines from what sounds like an old radio adaptation of the character, repeated ad nauseam and often completely out of context. One of our hero’s gorilla companions might charge at you in perhaps the scariest display you’ll ever see in VR, then proceed to crack jokes. Or, if you’re playing on PC, maybe an unconscious enemy farts after you knock him to the floor (yes, really).Attempting humor is one thing, but why is Tarzan VR trying to be this kind of outrageous?
It might be, I suspect, trying to get you to look past the game’s bizarrely shallow structure and mechanics. Because, on the surface, lots of Tarzan VR’s elements have charm. On PC at least, enemies bruise and bluster when you punch them in the face, vine-swinging is fast and fun, and the leafy jungle and cartoonish art offers a nice change of pace from developer Stonepunk Studios’ (otherwise infinitely better) Primordian. Most of that disappears on Quest (more on that below).
But it takes mere minutes for the cracks to reveal themselves. The combat simply has no order to it; it’s a case of running in, flailing your arms around with all the coordination of a loose pressure hose, and then sprinting on down the linear path in search of the next helpless mannequin to butcher. Again, on paper, there are some sound ideas here; you can pick enemies up and throw them, execute deadly dive attacks from the vines and each of the game’s three chapters introduces new weapons to use. But the experience gives you no real reason to utilize these tools and is in desperate need of some sort of player restraint to keep you from becoming a one-man killing machine.
You can imagine a take on this that really does work in step with VR, setting out an ambush from the treetops before descending from above to take a camp of enemies by surprise. Instead, the game feels like it’s racing you toward the end with brain-dead enemies that run toward you like lambs to the slaughter. In fact you sometimes don’t even need to fight; you can tame lions in certain segments and they’ll join you in your battle by wiping the floor with any and every enemy in a matter of seconds. You’re just left to sit back and wonder, yet again, what the heck is going on.
All of this madness is contained within a criminally short hour-long campaign, which means the game’s alarming erraticism never really lets up. To its credit, the game fires along at breakneck pace, but it ultimately feels like you’re being hurried along so you don’t stop to think about how ridiculous everything is.
Quite a ride, then, and and worthy of ‘so bad it’s good’ recognition, even if it knows it. But, even if it provides laughs, the game’s just far too rudimentary to recommend in 2021 – a mix of lifeless combat and overly straightforward design that never really capitalizes on the Tarzan fantasy.
Tarzan VR Review – Final Impressions
Part of me would like to give Tarzan VR a higher score than this because, in all honestly, the game provided plenty of entertainment as I tried to decipher the many missteps its creators took, leaving the laws of the jungle to crumble around me and let anarchy ensue. But, while this madness might be enough to save the game from boredom, it is ultimately a paper-thin and unacceptably short experience that hopes to hide its lack of depth with its surreal take on the Tarzan lore. You’ll definitely remember the name of Tarzan VR, but not for the reasons you’d expect.