STAFF REVIEW of Pro Gymnast Simulator (Xbox One)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Pro Gymnast Simulator Box art Remember that weird and hilarious Flash based browser game QWOP? You know, the track and field running game where you had to move each leg and calf individually, usually having you end up flat on your back or face and the source of many early memes. Well, it seems that the next generation of ragdoll physics is here with Pro Gymnast Simulator, revolving around, well, gymnastics, instead of simply running. But to take things to a whole other level, imagine your gymnast had to compete in their sport but the sets were designed like a level from Wipeout or American Ninja Warrior.

Interestingly, Pro Gymnast Simulator was actually developed by a real life Pro Gymnast, so there’s obviously another level of thought and passion that went into this as it’s based on real life experience. While the game has “Simulator” in its title and it is advertised as having “realistic controls”, it’s going to take quite a while to get used to the awkward controls, physics and movement of your gymnast.

While there’s no ‘Career’ per-se, you take part in numerous levels in the hope of not only completing them for a medal, but to earn the extra medals based on time, score and a hidden collectable on each stage. First though you need to design your gymnast, though don’t expect more than a few basic choices. Each person in your household can design and create their own avatar if you want to keep progression separate as well.

To progress through the ‘Career’ you choose what area section you want to compete in, each with a handful of levels within. As you begin you’ll only have the first area available, with all the others opening at certain medal milestones. Levels begin easy, with the first few teaching you the core mechanics, though you can choose to play around in a test gym to hone your acrobatic skills should you wish.

Each level tasks you with getting from your starting point to the finish area, usually a landing mat or specific bar to grasp onto. The better you do the more medals you can earn. Finishing a level earns one medal, you gain others for beating the objective score by doing flips and tricks, completing the level under a specific time which is usually quite challenging, and a fourth if you can grab the secret collectable that resembles a chalk block, generally quite out of the way or in an awkward place. Earn enough of these medals and you’ll unlock new areas which have even more levels to challenge yourself with.

Before you can start to channel your inner gymnast and start to launch yourself in the air and do flips, you got to start with the basics. The early tutorials will show you the core basics, but even after a few hours of playing I still struggled at times trying to do exactly what I wanted. The tutorials explain how the Left Stick controls your shoulders and the Right your hips. Now that you know how to swing your arms and legs you need to factor in your momentum, gravity and speed. The ragdoll physics are always good for a laugh when you fall and crash each time you miss your grab or landing.

Tapping Right Bumper will have your gymnast let go of what they are holding onto, which is how you will let go of bars or ropes to launch into the air, grabbing onto anything in range provided you touch them with your hands which is going to be based on how your launch in the air was. Wish you could slow things down so you can figure out the best time and angle to let go and launch yourself? The Left Bumper will go into a slow-mo mode that when held that shows an arrow of the angle your body will travel based on speed and momentum. Now trying to press the bumpers while using the sticks in different motions on the fly can become confusing at first, and that’s not even factoring the Triggers which pulls in your arms or legs, allowing you to pull of some fast spins mid-air.

The controls are going to not make much sense in the beginning, mostly because the arms and legs move based on your body position, not your rotation in the air. This means that if you swing your legs back while hanging still, your body will slowly move that direction, but if you swing them forwards when traveling backwards you’ll simply kill all of your momentum. It’s very tricky to get the hang of, knowing when to move your legs, arms, tuck them in and letting go for launches.

Because of the ragdoll physics and the hundreds of failure you’ll have, there’s a few laughs to be had simply because of the floppy limbs and fails. This can in turn change into frustration when I’ve spent the last half hour failing the same level repeatedly. Thankfully you’re able to simply quit out of a level you can’t beat for whatever reason and move onto any other you’ve unlocked, coming back later when you have more practice and a better ‘feel’ for how to play properly. I’ve had to do this many times, especially in the last two areas where the levels seem almost impossible without a stroke of absolute luck on your side. When you do get the hang of the movement and are able to finally perform moves you actually intend, it can be fun to swing from one bar to the next, launching exactly like you meant to all along.

There’s a replay option if you want to watch your run back and see what you did well, or not, with a bunch of more camera angles, even in first person which is nauseating to watch. There’s even a level editor to create your own stages, and while it’s simple enough to figure out and use, there’s no sharing option, so unfortunately there’s no way to play anyone else’s creation. There’s actually no online component at all, not even leaderboards for stages to see how you rank, as I would have loved to see how I compared to other players or even see their ghosts.

As for its visuals, it’s not going to impress in any way, looking much like an old Flash game from years ago. Animations are stiff and awkward due to the limbs being controlled individually, but even the backdrops and everything else on screen is quite basic and bland. The audio isn’t anything to really mention either, with some slight music in the background, but that’s about it.

Rooted in reality, the gameplay blends simulation with arcade, though because of the wacky ragdoll physics and awkward controls, it takes some time to really grasp and perform the moves you want to. Think of Pro Gymnast Simulator as a simple sidescrolling platformer where you can perform gymnast moves as you launch yourself in the air from one swing and bar to the next in some crazy setups that would never happen in real life, failing hundreds of times before you finally land on the finish mat but becomes fun when you get the swing of things. 'Dumb Fun' really is the best way I can describe Pro Gymnast Simulator.

**Pro Gymnast Simulator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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