Ape Escape 3

Ape Escape 3

Written by Cyril Lachel on 3/8/2006 for PS2  

When the first Ape Escape was released on the original PlayStation it was heralded as one of the best games of its type, proving once and for all that Sony's 32-Bit system could do just as much as the Nintendo 64.  Not only was the game a chaotic mix of platforming and playground tag, but it was also the first game to really take advantage of Sony's Dual Shock control.  Critics and fans fell in love and it looked like Ape Escape was Sony's E-ticket for family entertainment.

But what was once the critic's darling quickly got swept away to be ignored and forgotten.  Sony, who was riding high with the success of games like Jack & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, opted against releasing Ape Escape 2 in the U.S., pawning it off on UbiSoft who released it a full year after the Japanese release.  Fans of the series had a right to be concerned; it looked like Ape Escape's days were numbered.

But never fear, Sony apparently saw the error of their ways and decided to take back control of Ape Escape and release this third installment.  Not a lot has changed since the very first game, but to the millions of fans out there who have been stuck on this rollercoaster it's just nice to have a bunch of new simian villains to fight, chase, and (hopefully) catch.  Ape Escape 3 may not be the most original game of the year, but once you get a taste for simian hunting you'll never want to give it up.

Early into Ape Escape 3 we're re-introduced to Specter, the leader of those adorable (but deadly) little monkeys.  His latest scheme involves taking over the TV airwaves, making a lot of monkey-infused television broadcasting.  But this isn't just your normal bad TV; we're talking about programs so bad that it will literally melt your mind.  That's right; these are shows that are actually worse than the Bachelor, Fear Factor and Deal or No Deal -- though, not by much.  But I digress; Ape Escape 3 has you jumping into dozens of film and TV-inspired worlds doing your part to rid those areas of those damned annoying little apes.

Clearing each area of monkeys is easier said than done; we're hunting a prey that doesn't want to be caught and is ready to put up a fight.  These aren't your everyday monkeys; these simians are dressed up in all kinds of outfits and sporting a number of deadly weapons (including swords, guns, and even missiles).  Worse yet, these apes are natural born runners; you'll find yourself scrambling to catch these little buggers, but hey, that's half the fun, right?  Unlike most 3D platformers that have you rushing around to pick items up, Ape Escape's items rush back and do their best to get away from you and your net.

Those crazy little monkeys aren't the only thing that sets Ape Escape apart from the crowd; this game is some of the most unique gameplay mechanics you ever will see.  Instead of using the control's face buttons like most platformers, Ape Escape is all about using both analog sticks and the shoulder buttons.  Actually, the only thing the face buttons do is change between four different items.  Just about everything you want is mapped to the two analog sticks giving this game a smooth feel that is unlike any other platformer on the market.

These monkeys may be crafty, but you have a few handy tools up your sleeve.  From the start you get your trusty net and glowing club weapon (which looks an awful lot like one of those lightsabers from Star Wars).  Along the way you'll pick up new and more useful weapons, including a slingshot, monkey radar, and even a radio-controlled car.  Not only are these weapons helpful for getting rid of the attacking enemies, but many of them can be used to reach new areas and catch more monkeys.  The sky flyer, for example, allows you to float through the air and reach higher ledges, all of which you can do by quickly rotating the right analog stick on the PS2 control.

If all those weapons weren't enough, Ape Escape 3 also allows you to morph into completely different characters each with their own secret powers.  These characters, each based on a different area you fight through, are all very different and are a lot of fun to play around with.  Whenever you feel like it (and have enough power to do so) you can change in to everybody from the Wild West Kid to Miracle Ninja to Cyber Ace, each giving you a completely different experience.  One of my personal favorites was the Genie morph, which allows you to trap enemies in your rhythms … and then let you trap them.  These morphs are a great addition to Ape Escape and add a lot of flavor to this platformer.

But even with all the items and cool little morphs you are far from invincible.  Not only do you have to worry about losing all your life (in this game, cookies), but those pesky little apes will take your weapons and use them against you.  I'm going to tell you right now, there is nothing more embarrassing than having your net taken by a monkey dressed like a bunny rabbit capturing you and sending you to the beginning.  That's something you're going to take with you for the rest of your life.

One of the most exciting parts of Ape Escape 3 is how you never really know what you're going to be asked to go next.  This is not one of those games where all of the levels connect in one way or another, Ape Escape 3 has no problem taking you from a Titanic parody to a Star Wars homage.  You'll be in the desert doing your best to avoid quicksand one minute and then jumping from one airplane to the next in the very next minute.  It's just all over the board, but in a good way.

And if you get sick of playing through the real adventure there are more than a couple mini games worth checking out.  Chief among them is Mesal Gear Solid: Snake Escape, a full blown Metal Gear Solid rip off that has to be seen to be believed.  With completely different game mechanics, levels stolen directly from the Metal Gear Solid universe and plenty of monkeys with guns, this is definitely one of the best reasons to play Ape Escape 3.

Although the graphics are colorful and crisp, they haven't changed much since the original Ape Escape.  Things have become more detailed and some of the smoke effects are fantastic, but by and large this is not one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 2.  Even with the simple graphics I detected a few moments in the game where there were frame rate issues, they weren't terrible but certainly noticeable.  Hopefully Sony will continue this series on the PlayStation 3 and give the game some much-needed new clothes.

The game itself is not especially long, lasting a good 7 to 10 hours.  But once those credits have rolled you still have some work to do, including catching all of the loose monkeys.  You may have defeated Specter, but those apes he unleashed on the world are still out there and waiting for you to grab them.  With your new items and abilities you can go back through the earlier stages and find all of those sneaky simians.  The closer you get to catching them all the more cool extras you uncover.  If you're looking for a game that will keep you busy through these slow months then look no further than Ape Escape 3. 

All of these activities in Ape Escape 3 are fun.  The chase, the items, the mini games; it's all a lot of fun.  But there isn't a whole lot here that is brand new.  We're still dealing with the same control, a lot of the same items, and even a few familiar faces.  It's just all too familiar now and needs to be shaken up.  What Ape Escape 3 does it does it well; it's just unfortunate that it doesn't aspire to be even bigger and better.  In the end this is still one heck of a platformer, but maybe it's time to throw us for a loop when Ape Escape 4 comes around.

It looks the same and plays the same, but once you've started chasing down those cute monkeys you won't want to put down the control. Ape Escape 3 gets nearly every element right, it's just not very ambitious in its goals.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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