Remember the old saying "more fun than a barrel of monkeys?" Sure, I am old enough to recall what a barrel of monkeys is, but I think the younger generation may have a new reference point for this age-old saying. These are not the plastic monkeys you will remember, either. These monkeys have some smarts and a few tricks up their, well, pant legs (they don't wear shirts so they can't have tricks up their sleeves ... oh, never mind). Anyway, get ready to capture a few hundred monkeys and learn a few tricks along the way.
Ape Escape is a 3D platform game at its roots, but adds plenty of other novelties to keep the game fresh from start to finish. Okay, maybe you will start to get a little tired of chasing the damn monkeys after about number 125 or so, but if you invest that much time you might as well see it out to the end. Like most games these days, this one has a typically lame story that involves a time machine, a scientist and some kids. Blah, blah, blah. All that really matters is that you will travel to a ton of different locales trying to bag you some monkeys.
As I mentioned above, Ape Escape is a 3D platform game. It follows the free roaming formula allowing you to feel that you are actually immersed in the game environment. There is plenty of jumping, climbing, swimming, flying and shooting going on, not to mention some monkey netting. Yep, that is right—you capture the monkeys in an oversized butterfly net. Actually it is a time net that warps the monkeys back to the time station. Get used to using this thing because without it, you will just be wandering around with nothing to do.
Before I get into any more of the gameplay, I feel that I should mention that this is the first title to require an analog controller. Up until now, analog controllers were always a luxury but not a necessity. You could still use the old d-pad to control your actions (why anyone would still be using this is beyond me). This is not the case with this game. The game will not play without an analog controller. To me, this is a great feature because I feel that the analog controllers have not been fully utilized. I would bet that the majority of gamers did not even realize that you could push either of the analog sticks in and it acts as a button press. The only reason I knew this was because Road Rash 3D used this for the turbos and I could not figure out why my turbos were disappearing. Turns out I was actually pushing the sticks down and firing them. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Ape Escape. This game makes the most extensive use of all the functions and buttons on the analog controller. It takes a little getting used to, but before long you will find yourself wondering how you ever managed to play games any other way. I give this a big thumbs up.
The basic premise of the game is capturing apes. These apes all have their own unique personalities and abilities. They are ranked in three different categories: speed, attack and alert. The further you get into the game, the higher the monkeys are rated in these categories, making them more difficult to capture. All the monkeys wear helmets with lights on top. These lights will help you determine if the monkey knows you are around. If the light on the helmet is blue, the monkey is oblivious to your presence. You can use this to your advantage by sneaking up and netting the unsuspecting ape. If the light is yellow, they know you are around but don't know where you are. If you wait a few minutes without being seen, the light will change back to blue. If the light on the helmet is red, you have been spotted. This causes the monkeys to run around in a panicked frenzy. Finally, if the light is flashing, this means that they are hunting you down and getting ready to attack. It is best to avoid them altogether if the light starts to flash.
Another really neat part of the game are the different gadgets that you can earn. You start out the game with your standard issue Stun Club, which looks a lot like a light saber, and the Time Net which looks like a butterfly net. You will quickly earn the Water Net and Monkey Radar. Speaking of the Monkey Radar, I thought this was one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. You have a little radar that spins back and forth trying to home in on the location of the monkeys scattered across the levels. Once it locks on, the screen zooms in to the location of the monkey and shows you the statistics on that particular monkey. I just thought it was a great idea. Other gadgets you will earn include the Slingback Shooter, Super Hoop and the Sky Flyer. Each of these gadgets will help you in your quest to save all the monkeys.
They also did a great job on the level design. You will find yourself maneuvering ledges, running through ice (which unfortunately was not slippery), swimming through water and even battling it out inside a dinosaur. One of the unique things about it is that you are unable to get all the monkeys the first time through each level. You must go back at least one time on each level. Sometimes you will need one of your new gadgets to get the remaining monkeys. Other times you will just need to go back and capture those that remain.
As far as the graphics go, this game looked great but suffered from being a little over-ambitious for this machine. There were times that the action really slowed down, especially in the later levels. It was rare that this ever interfered with the gameplay, but it was a bit annoying. Actually, it reminded me once again about how I really can't wait for the next generation systems to hit. Other than the slowdown, the game was very bright and detailed. It is obvious that the developers really pushed the system to the limit.
If you are looking for an enjoyable platform game, this should fit the bill just fine. There are hours of fun to be had by gamers of all ages. Getting used to the controls can be a bit challenging at first, but you will soon be rowing the raft and netting monkeys with ease. Once again, Sony has hit on a winner that will entertain for quite some time.
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I usually prefer that my platform games come in the 2D variety as they're always more linear and you don't need to wrestle with an unwilling camera. But Ape Escape won me over because its controls are ingeniously good. The way it forces you to use both analog sticks for movement and "action" will take some getting used to. but once you do you should be catching monkeys in no time. There are a total of 22 stages which get progressively bigger and more tricky as you advance. There are nearly 200 rascals to catch across nine diverse worlds. Part of the reason why AE is so captivating is its method of reward. First, there are the gadgets in your bag of goodies. All of them employ creative uses of the analog stick. In fact, everything you do in the game requires use of the analog sticks in an entirely different manner to get by. AE also rewards you with three mini-games you can unlock: snowboarding, boxing and a space shooter. All three mini-games use your Dual Shock controller in ways you've never imagined. To top it off, all the monkeys you catch will reside on your PocketStation so you can swap or have monkey battles with friends. The only problem I have with AE is its in game camera. The Li button automatically puts the camera behind you, but sometimes, it can be a real pain in the ass. Still, AE has all the makings of a flagship title, without the overbearing hype and pomp.
From its oddball story to its ridiculous sound effects, Ape Escape is a big bundle of wackiness--extremely innovative wackiness. The developers set out to devise a game tailor-made for Dual Shock, and they've succeeded brilliantly. Control is spot-on for all of AE's massive variety of gameplay styles, gadgets and mini-games. AE deserves high marks for showing new ways to use the Dual Shock. I'm hoping other developers will pay attention.
As you may or may not know, I love primates. But this didn't affect my score in any way. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you: Ape Escape is a must-buy if you've been wanting a solid action/adventure. It is filled with insanely fun gameplay, similar to the kind found in titles from the olden days of 8- and 16-Bit gaming. It does have a few problems: Slowdown in some areas, an imperfect camera and some crappy dialogue in cinemas. Still, the game is a blast.
It's great to see a game that really takes advantage of the Dual Shock. Once you've got the hang of doing several things at once (rowing the boat is weirdly difficult) you'll wonder how you ever managed with other control systems. The level design in Ape Escape is superb...l especially liked the stuff with the RC car-something genuinely unique and original for a platformer. If you can tolerate the crap music and cutesy look, Ape Escape is definitely worth a look.
Innovations in 32-Bit games are tough to come by nowadays, but Sony's new Ape Escape squeezes some freshness out of 3D platformers with a unique interface. Unfortunately, some twists are better left, er, untwust?
Planet Of The Apes
Ape Escape hurtles you through time on a quest to trap the super-intelligent monkey henchmen of Specter, who plans to use the simian smart-asses to take over the world. Apes large levels feature portals with minimal loading time, yet, despite impressive lighting effects and realistic textures, this monkey's visuals are spanked by frequent clipping and frustrating camera movement.
Apes shrieking monkeys are the highlight of the stereo sound; they also help you locate danger and prey. Otherwise, Apes minimal dialogue, been-there, heard-that sound effects, and mildly energetic score are all adequate.
Apes coolest feature--an interface that fully utilizes both analog sticks on the Dual Shock controller--is also its Achilles' heel. When used in concert, the dual sticks allow you to attack in any direction, spin or swipe your weapons, and realistically maneuver rowboats, tanks, or skis. Unfortunately, the game control is cumbersome and frustrating thanks to diabolical synchronization chores and the aforementioned camera problems.
Ape has some features--particularly the unlockable mini-games, like skiing and boxing--that put it above the average 32-bit platformers, but its unique interface is more frustrating than refreshing. Unless you're ambidextrous. Ape Escape will be a monkey on your back.
Ape Escape looks like total monkey madness. A once harmless simian accidentally dons an intelligence-enhancing helmet. Now he's evil and is sending his monkey minions back in time to turn Earth into the planet of the apes. As Spike, the boy hero, you'll hunt banana burners through 21 levels across seven time periods.
This 3D action/adventure game seeks to innovate PlayStation gameplay by assigning all the controls to the Dual Shock controller's joysticks: The left stick controls movement in all directions, while the right stick operates a mess of gadgets.
Mastering these gadgets will be the key to the game. The main tool is a monkey net, but Spike also swings a lightsaber, fires a slingshot (with sniper targeting), operates a handheld Monkey Radar, and more. You'll need all this stuff and a Hula-Hoop (for real) to snare the fleet-footed, sneaky apes and to fight the vicious animals that range from stinging insects to ferocious dinosaurs.
So far, Ape appears imaginative and zany. Zapping monkeys back down the evolutionary scale just might be a great ape-scape.