Ape Escape is the first game in one of Sony’s most memorable but somewhat forgotten franchise, the game was Developed by Japan Studios as an exclusive for the PS1, it was the first game to ever make the Dual Shock Analog controller mandatory for play. A PSP remake came out in 2005 but was criticised for not being as good as the original with less manageable controls.
Specter a popular primate in a monkey themed amusement park gets his paws on a Peak Point helmet created by a scientist at the themepark, however due to it being a prototype it not only gives Specter human intelligence but also makes him extremely evil with a plot to take over the world.
Specter soon gives all of the monkeys at the park Peak Point Helmets and releases them to take over the Professors laboratory, at the time he and his assistant Katie are testing out a new time machine when our games hero Spike and his best friend Buzz turn up at the lab and end up being sent throughout various time periods with the monkeys!
Buzz is mind controlled to Join Specter leaving Spike alone to travel to the different time zones, capture all of the monkeys, defeat Specter and prevent any damages to the worlds historical timeline.
The gameplay here is definitely unique, in a sense the game itself if a 3D platforming collectathon where players need to collect a set number of items before proceeding to the next level.
There are only two items to find in the game, one of these are the Specter Coins which will unlock minigames for multiplayer purposes and the other is the monkeys themselves.
Capturing the monkeys while simple enough can get rather tricky later on in the game, the apes helmets all have a siren which glows a different colour representing their difficulty to capture blue is calm, amber is alert and red is high alert.
Sometimes the Monkeys also carry guns and will shoot Spike taking some real damage to your health (Cookies or Biscuits).
The gadgets you unlock throughout the game really help to make the capturing process go a lot smoother, there are 9 in the game and each is unlocked at different points throughout the campaign.
The Gadgets in no particular order are:
Net – a basic net used for capturing monkeys on land
Water Net – a device which allows Spike to swim fast underwater but can also be used to capture swimming monkeys
Sky Flyer – allows Spike to reach great heights and hover temporarily
Stun Club – used for stunning monkeys and turning wheels
Slingback Shooter – a slingshot with 3 ammo types, regular, explosive and homing
Super Hoop – Spike can run really fast with this helping to get past timed obstacles and attack enemies from behind.
Magic Punch – another stunning item but his one is more powerful and can destroy some walls.
RC Car – a remote controlled car which can get in to smaller spaces to chase out monkeys and help solve puzzles.
Monkey Radar – will pin point Spike in the direction of monkeys, the sonar gets more aggressive the closer to a monkey he gets.
Catching the monkeys is really satisfying and very addictive, I found myself wanting to keep coming back to the game to try and find as many as I could, as I previously stated some monkeys are hidden behind tricky puzzles but they can also be hidden behind armoured machinery such as flying saucers and giant mechs, these are difficult to defeat without taking much damage but soon became my favourite monkeys to get as they added more additional challenge where the rest of the game was a bit easier to relax too.
The games controls are actually quite innovative for the time, there is some effort made to evoke realism in the gameplay, its nothing revolutionary but the efforts made to have players use the other analog stick to physically pull back the elastic of the sling shot or spin the propeller of the sky flyer and super hoop was a risky choice by the developers considering that this differed from traditional and more simplified controls, it definitely took a little time to get used to but after a while I grew to really enjoy these choices and hope to see them used in more games I check out in the future.
The three minigames you unlock by collecting the Specter Coins are a nice reward to players for going the extra mile the ski game was my favourite and the galaxy game was a fun homage to space shooters of the past but the boxing game I couldn’t even land a hit in, I’m not sure if it was genuinely hard to control or I just sucked but either way it didn’t effect the main campaign or my enjoyment with Ape Escape.
Visually the game is packed full of colour which really helps to enhance the visuals, it takes on a cartoony look and does not put too much emphasis on textures, it still stands out though due to its brighter colours something that a lot of family friendly games of the era would use, a great example of another game which utilizes more colours would be Croc Legend of the Gobbo’s or Spyro the Dragon.
The soundtrack is an abosolute thrill ride with non stop pumping tracks to put you in a energetic and entusiastic mood to go and catch those monkeys !, I loved all of the music in the game but my favourite was always the opening title music.
Ape Escape is an absolute blast and a game I really wish I had growing up. Child me would have loved this one and while I did have so much fun doing this one as an adult back then I found the games I did have extremely difficult and could have done with something a little milder such as this.
What is there to say apart from Ape Escape is a one of a kind game which delivers in all categories from its gameplay, replay value, graphics and soundtrack. It offers reason to collect everything with the minigames and a secret final boss even after finishing everything I just want to start it all over again. Its innovative, made with love and as just about as charming as we could ask for needless to say I would be banana’s to award it any less than a clean 10/10
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