Ape Escape Review

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A lot of gamers (myself included) have fond memories of the Ape Escape series. Originally conceived as a tech demo to show off the then new Dualshock controller, Ape Escape was developed into a fully-fledged platformer that, after receiving a host of rave reviews and some very impressive sales figures, spawned a host of equally successful sequels – thus turning the Ape’s into one of the crown jewels in Sony’s first party portfolio.

Well, we haven’t seen a full Ape Escape since 2005’s reasonably decent Ape Escape 3 on PS2. So, as a fan of the series, I was quite looking forward to this PlayStation Move exclusive release. I mean, c’mon, if the original did such a great job highlighting the features of the Dualshock, then it stands to reason that this latest release would serve to remind us why we purchased the PlayStation Move in the first place………yeah, that hasn’t happened.

Instead of the stellar platformer we were all hoping for (something the PS3 is arguably crying out for) us long-suffering Move owners have been served up a solid kick to the crotch in the form of this appalling shovelware shooter. Un-freakin-believable.

While some would argue the case for the Wii delivering a ton of shovelware over the past 5 years or so (which is true) the fact of the matter is, that it all came from third party developers. Take a look at Nintendo’s first party releases and they’re as good as they’ve ever been. This rubbish on the other hand, came from Sony’s very own, and usually very talented, Japan Studio. How’d that happen?

I know the game is aimed at a younger audience, but that’s no excuse for what has been delivered here. An extremely basic on-rails shooter, Ape Escape (also known as PlayStation Move Ape Escape) is little more than a poorly conceived tech demo, stretched to breaking point over 16 monotonous and often infuriating levels.

With the use of a slingshot, a fan and butterfly net, you are charged with collecting bananas, which serve as both score accumulator and health, while fending off and occasionally catching an array of attacking monkeys…..that’s right, attacking monkeys! What happened to them trying to escape? Honestly, nothing about this game makes sense.

Although you do have limited control over viewing your surroundings via the square and circle buttons, this is about as on-rails as you’re likely to find. This obviously doesn’t make Ape Escape a bad game, far from it. In fact, despite my initial disappointment that the latest Ape Escape was not following in the series’ platforming traditions, I could totally understand Sony’s choice to take the series in a new direction for the sake of showing off the new tech. The problem is, Ape Escape just happens to be a very poor example of the genre and a terrible way to show off Move’s potential capabilities. With no unlockable weaponry or game modes, you will have literally seen all that this game has to offer in the first five minutes. Of course, it also doesn’t help that the core mechanics have also been somewhat botched.

Although certainly playable, the slingshot feels spongy and the butterfly net far too inaccurate for the small window of opportunity afforded to the player to catch incoming monkeys. Rather than getting into a happy rhythm of shooting bananas, catching monkeys and fanning away debris, you are often left wildly flailing your arms as you attempt to successfully capture an incoming monkey before he steals away all of your bananas.

Now, I’m all for a challenge, but this often doesn’t feel like a fair one. While it certainly isn’t overly difficult to reach the end of each level, to get anywhere near the game’s high scores, you’re going to have to put in a hell of a lot of practice. Beyond memorising the attack patters of monkeys that often come at you from off the screen, you’ll also have to get to grips with a control scheme that isn’t nearly as tight or responsive as it should have been.

Boss battles at the end of each level do serve to break up the boredom, and a collection of mini-games are included to make up for the unbelievable lack of co-op play (either local or online). But sadly, the boss battles, like the rest of the game, are uninspired, forgettable affairs while the mini-games, although mildly amusing in short doses, are certainly not enough to make this package worthy of your time or money.

To make matters worse, only one of the three mini-games are available from the start. Whereas the mildly entertaining Tag Rally is available from the off, Slingsniper and Sprayzer Defence Force are only unlocked after hours of play. Like Tag Rally, they are amusing for a short period of time, but for the amount of effort required to unlock them, you’d certainly expect something a little more memorable.

In defence of Ape Escape, it’s not a bad looking game. Although it may not be a huge departure from the PS2 releases, it’s still a brightly coloured game filled to the brim with amusing, if somewhat similar, Ape’s (you can actually check out all 36 via the game’s biography section). The environments are a tad cliché and certainly don’t provide anything out of the ordinary, but they’re all pretty enough and are certainly befitting of the Ape Escape universe. It’s a shame that the environments aren’t a little more interactive, but hey, at least they’re easy on the eyes.

Surprisingly enough, one of, if not the best things about the Ape Escape package is the beautifully drawn and really rather amusing anime cutscenes. While the story involving two girls needing your help, their grandmother and a monkey in space is utter pish, it’s at least told in an entertaining fashion. The fact that these cutscenes are so much fun is great news. The fact that they’re the best thing about the game is not.

Ape Escape could have been a watershed moment for the PlayStation Move. With a chance to appeal to young gamers via the series’ family friendly credentials and older gamers still nostalgic for the original, Japan Studio had a great chance to try something new with the devise and give a genuine reason for those still sitting on the fence to pick up this disappointingly supported peripheral. Instead, they’ve created a poor excuse of an on-rails shooter and in doing so may have inadvertently knocked one more nail into Move’s ever closing coffin.

Bonus Stage Rating - Poor 3/10

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to press@4gn.co.uk.

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