Review by pandaramaster
A fantastic platformer for anybody, regardless of age.
Ape Escape 2 is a typical Japanese game. It's quirky, has an offbeat humour, bright vivid graphics and the most bizarre concept ever conceived. You track down monkeys. Not rare exotic animals, monkeys. Of course, after the stupendous Ape Escape on the Playstation that no one bought, but eventually warmed too, it became the norm. So here we have the sequel. Though it doesn't push the series in any new direction, it does give players more of the same and a whole heap of worthwhile extras.
The story is essentially the same as the first title. The professor made a helmet to give monkeys intelligence, basically. Unfortunately, he tried it on the wrong monkey named Sceptre who goes mad with power. Like that Arnie Swazgher guy. He frees a whole load of monkeys. It's up to you to capture them all and to stop their cheeky ways. Hardly philosophical, hardly mind blowing story telling. This game never takes itself too seriously, though it is charming and great fun. Much like this game.
The game plays identical to Ape Escape. Ape Escape was one of the first Playstation titles to be made solely for the Dual Analogue controller and though it was great, it took time to get used to it. Ape Escape 2 doesn't really expand on the controls. But it does refine it. It feels tighter and a lot more intuitive this time round because most PS2 games rely solely on analogue control now. Your left analogue stick moves the protagonist and the right analogue stick controls your attack using the Gotcha gadgets. The D-Pad is for the camera and the face buttons are for designated gadgets, for easier access to preferred Gotcha gadgets. In a similar manner to the Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. R1 is jump and that's it really. The crux of the game is capturing the monkeys; you do this by using the various Gotcha gadgets created by the Professor. There's the net and stun club that closely resembles a light saber, these will be your default weapons for the entire game. Then there's a bizarre hula-hoop that allows you to dash forwards quickly, rotating the right analogue stick a few times to build up momentum. Then there's the RC car, which I found to be a bit difficult to control at first. I'm not going to list every single gadget down, let's just say the list becomes more bizarre as you progress, it does add to the game's quirky, and charming nature.
The thing this game lacks at first glance is a challenge. The game is relatively easy to complete and you can see the ending at about 10-15 hours. Though once you delve into the game's intricate secrets and a heap of hidden extras you start to realise there's more to this game. First of all, the game has a fantastic list of outstanding mini games that could be stand-alone games in their own right. The Monkey Football is a fine addition and is perhaps the highlight of the mini games. I hate football games, but Monkey Football is so accessible, so fun and even better with friends that I can look past the fact that it is football. The other mini games are also great and really add to the lifespan. Then there's capturing every single monkey from the levels and believe me; finding every single one of them is a challenge. Sometimes, you can see the monkeys and the challenge is getting to them. Sometimes the monkeys are hidden out of sight and require painstakingly thoroughness through each area and level. There are also the humorous little fairy tale stories (involving monkeys of course) that parody the well-known fairy tales. The game also has an in depth encyclopedia on each monkey you capture. Basically in the end, though the main quest is fine there are plenty of other things to see and do that will keep busy after you've beaten the story.
The graphics really encompasses children of today's fascination in big anime eyed characters and vibrant worlds. Make no mistake, this game is as Japanese as you're going to get. The worlds, characters, monkeys and weapons are all cutesy and typical anime. The game has this softness etched into everything; the colour's bright, bold and vivid. It is a step up from Ape Escape though it can't compare to the likes of Jak 2, for example. But then this game doesn't give into the demands of making games all GTA like. This game has the appeal for children and it doesn't give into the pressure of the gritty, realism, sweary and moody games of today. This game has the aesthetics to please children and adults without being patronising or embarrassing.
The sound is also of a typical Japanese fanfare. It has this airhead quality to it, meaning it's catchy but ultimately forgettable. It does have some musical highlights and the music doesn't irritate. Above all, the music fits in with the mood of the entire game. The levels all have their predictable theme to it, but again, it fits the mood and atmosphere adequately. Suffice to say, the English voice over work is perhaps the blemish of an otherwise great audio presentation. The voice over is in the same tone as other children anime shows. So it's over the top and presented in an annoying, over enthusiastic manner. I suppose it's fair to say it retains the appeal for a young audience, but then again, Crash Bandicoot or Spyro didn't have the below average voice work or presented in an annoying manner. It's perhaps a bit harsh to say, because I must admit that although it's over the top it does suit the character's persona nicely. The sound effects are good, some recycled from Ape Escape, some new and some bizarre.
The lifespan of the game comes into question on how much of a 100 percent perfectionist you really are. The main bulk of the story can be completed in a matter of hours, or in a good dedicated weekend but if you're willing to delve a little deeper you'll be pleasantly surprised by all the hidden goodies and great extras. As previously mentioned, the hidden mini games could be stand-alone games in their own right and are definitely worth seeking out. I don't want to spoil the hidden extras because each one is worth experiencing and is deeply satisfying and entertaining. Overall, Ape Escape 2 is one of the most complete gaming packages available for the Playstation 2. Okay, so it doesn't revolutionise the platforming genre in anyway, and isn't really a huge leap from it's predecessor in terms of controls. This is still a fine game with a great single player mode with an outrageous amount of things to unlock that stem off from the story mode. It's still great fun to play and doesn't get old or repetitive and why fix what isn't broke?
+Wealth of hidden things to unlock
+Is quite a big game...
+It has Monkeys!
-...But the story mode can be completed in over a dozen hours
-Initially lacks a real challenge
-Sub par voice acting
-Isn't a huge departure from Ape Escape.
So In conclusion, Ape Escape 2 is a great game and fans of the platforming genre or of the original game should definitely check it out.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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