Ape Escape 3
I admit I was happy to hear that the monkeys from Ape Escape were running loose and causing mischief once again. Not because I'm a simian sympathizer, but because the series always makes catching the little guys so damn fun. As usual, you'll use both analog sticks in clever ways to net your monkey quota via lightweight puzzling and hop-and-bop action. Power-up costumes like Wild West Kid and Miracle Ninja might have cynical gamers rolling their eyes, but while each getup is required at certain moments, the game constantly inspires you to switch to your favorite costumes for the fun of it, with wacky scenarios that parody films like Friday the 13th, Titanic, and even Bruce Lee's Game of Death. Monkey gangsters playing mah-jongg in the back of a Chinese restaurant? Bust out the Dragon Kung Fu outfit and it's on. The game is short but packs tons of mostly ripe optional stuff to keep you amused. Minor control or camera issues may bite you in the butt now and then, but you just can't help but have fun with this one. Unless your name is G. Ford or Kathleen.
Remember when Ape Escape was the poster child of innovation, an amusing platformer that showed off the wonders of Sony's DualShock controller? Well, using the right stick to attack doesn't wow me so much anymore--I'd rather have a functional camera. Ape Escape 3 finds itself in a world of hurt when it comes to keeping the action onscreen, but even if the camera were ideal, the game is far too uninspired and short (though generally competent) to keep its target younger demographic amused--get 'em Sony's superior Sly 3 instead, I say. Even the game's potentially amusing Metal Gear Solid minigame (an unlockable Metal Gear Solid riff) is chock-full of camera-bred frustration.
I understand the compulsion to trap hordes of furry creatures to populate a private zoo. When the creatures are actually damn dirty apes bent on world domination of the human race--well, hand me one of those silly chimpanzee-snatching gadgets. I absolutely agree with Justin that the goofy lampoons make for fun levels and character morphs, but snaring those slippery simians never gets challenging enough to stay enjoyable past the initial "Hey, how 'bout that--it's a monkey Lord of the Rings'" moment. In fact, the only challenge comes from fighting the god-awful camera. The "GO-GO-TURBO Japanese cheerleaders on speed" mood and shallow, stupid puzzles are the sort of thing shut-in Naruto fans thrive on, but I found them irritating. Thankfully, it was short.
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Ape Escape 3, like its predecessors, is all about capturing monkeys. It's more fun than it sounds, really. With a large arsenal of nifty gadgets at your disposal, you devise clever (and humane) ways to capture the unruly primates in several different themed stages.
That said, the series hasn't advanced much at all since Ape Escape 2. The dual analog mechanics that made waves on the original PlayStation are still intact in Ape Escape 3, but that isn't a bad thing necessarily. Where several games have failed at using the dual analog setup, Ape Escape still succeeds, largely because of the simplicity of it all. Using the two analog sticks for movement and gadget action, it becomes fairly intuitive early on and helps you jump right into the game.
While the platforming antics still rely heavily on the bevy of gadgets at your disposal, a lot of the gadgets are carried over from the last title. This can take away some of the inherent delight dedicated fans of the series might experience in the game. They're still fun to use, sure, but it'll be old hat for a lot of people.
Fortunately, Ape Escape 3 has enough charm strewn in throughout each world that it can be compelling enough in spite of its shortcomings. Pop-culture references abound and there's a lot to see in each world that might be enough to keep you playing. The apes all have a lot of personality too, probably more than the two main characters, oddly enough.
While the visuals don't have a lot to them, they really complement the wacky nature of the game. Levels exude personality and charm with a lot of sights and sounds to experience, which is all you can really hope for with a game like Ape Escape 3.
More fun than a barrel of monkeys, worth going bananas over, a game to monkey around with' there are a lot of great clichés to pick from here, but none of them completely apply to Ape Escape 3. While Ape Escape 3 provides for an entertaining time, its age is showing through, even with the charming sheen a large army of monkeys helps create. If you're a fan of the series, it's worth checking out; otherwise, rent before you buy.