Ape Escape 2 (PS2) - Usman Zia - 8/10

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Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20040118133749/http://www.gamestyle.net:80/playstation2.php?action=review&id=154

Ape Escape 2 [game information] Version Tested: PAL Genre: Adventure Publisher: SCEE Developer: SCEJ

With Sony practically dominating the industry with the Playstation brand, it’s not really surprising if you have a picture of them in your head as a big evil money making corporate company. Hey, even I have visions where some big Sony execs are sitting around a diamond studded table laughing away because one of them said “Can you believe they fell for the emotion engine gag?”

However, there have been times when Sony In House Developers has shocked us all with very inspiring, beautiful and original games. Much praise was given to Ico last year, a game of artistic magnificence and wonder. However, in terms on sales it was more or less entirely ignored.

The same happened with a game on the PSone called Ape Escape. Trouble was the game needed the dual shock controller at the time when the digital controller was mainstream, so instead of being a gimmick, it led to being a burden because the game had to be sold with a dual shock hence being about £20 more than the other games. So it flopped here.

Despite this, it didn’t stop Sony from releasing the sequel for PAL PS2 and you and I should rejoice, because the game itself is as much fun as its prospect. Do I want to chase around intelligent cute monkeys with a net? Yes please.

For those of you who ignored Ape Escape on the psone (tut tut) it wasn’t just your average platformer. What happened what a bugger up with an experiment with intelligence boosting helmets and monkeys (didn’t we learn anything from Planet of the Apes?) and so they developed personalities and ran around rampant. You had to catch them with the help of various gadgets. Stun them with your erm..stun club (which is actually a light sabre), hit them with your RC car, shoot them with your catapult, and once they’re in your sights, secure them with your net. The cool thing was that the first analogue stick was used for movement, while the other one was used to control the gadget in hand. A well integrated feature.

The prospect more or less stays the same with the sequel, with it subtle differences and improvements. The first is obviously the graphics. Ape Escape on the psone was nice, but due to limited hardware it seemed very jaggy and pointy (even the main character was called Spike). Everything has been nicely rounded off for the sequel, but don’t expect a jump like with psone metal gear solid and it’s ps2 sequel. It’s a colourful game, with clean, simple levels that suit the game perfectly but it’s all by no means amazing. It’s the same concept with the sound, perfectly ok, but the levels tunes won’t stick in your head like the ones in Mario games do.

Good. The technical stuff is out of the way. Here comes the fun bit. The way the game plays. Picture the scenario, you’ve just been let into a level with green hills, a blue sky and a few enemies to dispose off like walking piggy banks and flying tomato bird erm…things. Then you assign the gadgets to the main buttons on the PS2 pad ( X, O etc). When you press that button, you’ll switch to that gadget. So you take out a radar device, and it picks up a monkey nearby. Press L2 and you can spy on the unknowing simian. On the camera screen you’ll see the monkey’s details, like its name, personality, attack, aggression, alertness and how hungry it is. From here you’ll have to plan how to catch it. Not early in the game of course, since it’s the dumb easy ones you can just sneak up on and throw your net around, but certainly the later ones…with machines guns, missiles and even manned…er I mean monkeyed tanks. You see the monkey’s wearing glasses, ah, it can’t see too well! Pressing R3 and crawling army style should allow a good ambush. Good. Four more to finish the level!

As you can see the game is essentially a hunting one more than a platformer, but without the violence and Kenya safari tour guide. In later levels (there 25 of them!) you’ll encounter monkeys with different themes according to the environment. You’ll find heavily armed bouncer types in the casino, ninja monkeys in the Japanese temple and ones lazing on the sand in the beach level. They’ll also be wearing different pants according to their skills. Blue ones are incredibly fast and you can’t run and keep up with them so another approach is needed. Green ones are armed to the teeth and are wearing combat goggles which can only detect movement. Basically catching each new monkey is a fun and different experience. In terms of personalities, amusing references to actors and famous people are made. You’ll find a dim monkey who always wants to eat and is called Homer or one in a space suit called Neil Apestrong.

Between levels you’ll meet bosses (yes who are also monkeys, I’m going to struggle finishing this off without saying monkey in every sentence), and in good platforming tradition it’s a case of recognising their weak points while avoiding their attacks. The game is never too hard but is always challenging, and pretty addictive. I finished it off in the weekend I got it and it took about 10 hours, but the point is every time I turned it off I wanted to go back to capture another chimp. However if you collect coins throughout the levels, when you exit them and come to the base where you can choose your next level, save etc, there’s a vending machines. Stick in 10 coins and a kinder surprise type egg comes out which can contain anything from artwork, comics, soundtracks, stories or one of three mini games which are good distractions in themselves.

As for flaws, the camera can get very awkward, especially in tricky moments, and because of the game using up both analogue sticks the only way to really adjust it is the d-pad and can really be a very annoying factor. Also, in terms of lifespan I cant see it going longer than a week to see everything in it. Otherwise, Ape Escape 2 just hooked me by being just plain fun while being different and original from today’s generic platform games.

Oh and it has monkeys in it.

Game Score: 8/10 Reviewed By: Usman Zia