Ape Escape Academy

Ape Escape Academy

Written by Cyril Lachel on 3/2/2006 for PSP  

Ape Escape Academy is not a fun game to play.  Considering that this is an off-shoot of one of Sony's most entertaining properties, it comes as something of a surprise to see how broken Ape Escape Academy is.  On paper it might not seem like a bad idea -- show the training methods of our simian friends (and foes) through non-stop mini games -- but sadly you aren't playing this game on paper, this is a PSP game and it's one you might want to avoid.

We've seen this type of game before, Ape Escape Academy is definitely cribbing off of games like Wario Ware$ on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.  If you've played through the Wario games then you know that a game full of mini games can be hours of fun, it's a game that gives you almost no time to think between exercises and won't let you put it down.  Unfortunately Ape Escape Academy doesn't reach the same heights as Wario, this is a game that tries as hard as it can but just can't come together to create an entertaining experience.

The problems with Ape Escape are apparent from the first minutes.  In the very first task you are forced to sing a song while marching with your class of apes, you do this by pushing the buttons it tells you, not unlike how you control Parappa the Rapper (and so many other subsequent music games).  But while Parappa was full of style and funny to listen to, Ape Escape Academy feels more like an exercise, and you better believe that I forgot the song the moment it was over.

Anybody can be excused for starting the game off with boring Simon Says-style mini game, but sadly the games found here in Ape Escape Academy aren't very good.  Sony has poisoned the game by offering a list of games that just aren't fun.  It's diverse and sometimes funny (I can't deny it, monkeys make me laugh), but most of the games just aren't worth your time.

Ape Escape Academy is split up into a six year curriculum, each featuring a new instructor made up of bosses from previous Ape Escape titles.  Each year features nine different mini games, three rows of three.  If you win the game you get an "O" in that box, fail and you get an "X", your goal is to match three in a row (be it across, up and down, or diagonally).  Congratulations, now you know how to play both Ape Escape Academy AND Tic-Tac-Toe.

Ape Escape Academy has a total of 45 different mini games, each forcing you to perform some unique task.  You'll be answering trivia questions, counting monkeys, bowling, boxing, fencing, and yes, even juggling.  This sounds like a good recipe for a portable experience, but the developers at Shift manage to undermine nearly every mini game.  Some are entirely too long, others are far too frustrating, and others won't be very clear until you've failed them a few times.

The more you play these different mini games the more you realize how uninspired they really are.   Not only are most of them completely forgettable, but a number of the games are marred by control issues.  Most of the games found in Ape Escape Academy are the type that require you to have fast fingers and quick timing, but the makers of the game make this almost impossible with sluggish controls and other unfortunate quirks.

Another major problem is that the instructions are so vague that they can hardly be called helpful.  All games get one single line of explanation, hardly enough to teach you what to do.  Generally losing a mini game wouldn't be that big of a deal, but since it puts a big "X" on the board it could keep you from moving on in the game.  The problem is that you won't just lose once or twice because of vague instructions, it will happen all the time.  If you find yourself losing too many squares and wanting to start again, you might be surprised to know that you cannot drop out of this Academy.  Once you've signed up for a year of school you are required to finish it … even if there's no way for you to graduate to the next level.

Beyond the 45different mini games, Ape Escape Academy offers you four multiplayer games.  Two you can play with four other PSP owners using the wireless Ad Hoc mode, the other two you can play by sharing the PSP.  I don't mean you the other PSP owners download information from your PSP (like Burnout Legends), when I say you share the PSP I mean it in the most literal sense.  In these games all of the people involved huddle around a single PSP and get their own set of buttons.  These games are a fun diversion for a few minutes, but when compared to all the great multiplayer games already on the PSP they just don't stack up.

Ape Escape Academy was released in Japan December of 2004, which might go a long way to explain the game's adequate, but dated look.  If you're a fan of the platforming Ape Escape games then you'll feel right at home with this games look and atmosphere.  The music sounds like it has been lifted directly from its console siblings and the simple graphics are exactly what you would expect from an Ape Escape game.  Having said that, there are a few graphical problems that probably could have been ironed out … especially since it took them over a year to release the game in the U.S.

The more I played Ape Escape Academy the more I questioned why Sony would bring this game out at all.  It has terrible controls, uninspired mini games, an outdated look, and a serious lack of direction.  Oh, and did I mention that you can beat the game in a single afternoon?  There aren't a lot of reasons to enroll your self in Ape Escape Academy, it doesn't offer the classes you want and won't help you later in life.  There's no need to incur student loans with this one, this Academy is not worth attending.

If you can get over the game's sluggish controls and short story mode you will still be left with a game that is no fun to play. With uninspired mini games that with either bore you or frustrate you, Ape Escape Academy is one school you might not want to apply to.

Rating: 5 Flawed

* 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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