Review by Hitoki

Reviewed: 07/20/03 | Updated: 07/20/03

There's no escape!

This review is of the PAL version, though I have encountered sound samples from the American version.

One day, my younger brother had been playing a little game at my uncle's home. When he came home, he demanded that he had this game, so he spent WEEKS saving up for it. What was this game? Ape Escape.
Now, a little while later, Ape Escape has a Playstation 2 sequel. And let me tell you, it'll put up a fight like you've never seen...
The concept is simple enough. Last time around, Kakeru beat Specter and captured a tonne of monkeys- and that should be it. Unfortunately, Hikaru, Kakeru's rather dim cousin, resends the helmets to the monkeys- and now its HIS job to retrieve them all, aided by some awesome gadgets along the way.Of course, there's the small matter of Specter and the Freaky Monkey Five (My personal favourites, but you'll hear about that later) to deal with...

Well, first off, the graphics. I'll admit I wasn't looking forward to this game. I'd come to embrace the sharp-edged, ugly-but-adorable pizellated wonder of Ape Escape, and seeing it become properly formatted was not high on my list. But the graphics have retained their anime feel while increasing in quality, and whereas it's no Final Fantasy, it's definitely improved. Every layout is unique, and there are little things that can catch your eyes and are pulled off fantastically (When in the gadget trainer, the escape portal projects an image of the level next to vbisit on its walls).
As much as voice-acting goes, there is one major downfall- And that's Hikaru[Jimmy for American users]'s voice- it's like listening to a guinea pig on helium. Aside from that, the voices ROCK. Not even the voice actor for Misty from Pokemon could cut that sharp, bratty edge to Natsumi's voice. Specter's voice took a bit of a noise dive, and now he sounds less serious than before- but he's still good. very good. The Professor sounds like the bumbling friendly old guy he is, and even Kakeru who makes a brief appearance in an FMV gets a good actor. The Freaky Monkey Five have amazing voices- Blue Monkey(also Kakeru)'s british accent couldn't be pulled off better by anyone else, Yellow Monkey, though sharing the same actor as Hikaru/Pipotchi, has the slightest camp edge to his voice that makes him shine, Pink Monkey's butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth lisp, White Monkey's crazy yelling, Red Monkey's over-enthusiastic growl.
The music? Well, it's J-Pop, but I like J-Pop. The music is crafted to be cute, but fits every level perfectly (Moon Base II and Final Battle With Specter are favourites with me.)
Sounds and graphics are good, but they don't make a game. Ape Escape 2 could lose it all if the gameplay was below par- but thankfully, it doesn't at all. It's the most stunning- if not, sadly, short-lived- platformer I've ever had the luck to play.Everything from the unique boss-battles (White Monkey's fight includes a huge replica of your own character, wielding your own characters) to thewonderfully-crafted control system, which makes full use of the right analog stick instead of simply dismissing it as a camera-angle button as many predecessors have, never fails to please. And for those who are homesick for the old Ape Escape, the characters pop up everywhere (You can play the game through as Kakeru, Hiroki and Charu artwork is available, Hiroki stars in a manga...)
Then there's the sublimely-entertaining Gotcha Box. This piece of machinery requires gold coins, and in it, you can buy just about anything- Concept artwork, manga strips by the talented Goto, RC chassises, Novels, sevret photos, soundtracks, movies, minigames (which you can later buy add-ons for= You are able to play through each minigame as a member of the Freaky Monkey Five, which I obviously loved) and even health top ups and notes from Specter, useless but fun bits of trivia from Natsumi, and even a Fortune or two. I can't tell you the hours I spent in Casino City just trying to scrounge enough coins to use on that Gotcha Box...
Finally, there are the minigames. On the PSone, Ape Escape beat all others in terms of minigames, and AE2 doesn't disappoint. A Bishi-Bashi style game called 'Dance Monkey Dance' comes first (which you can later re-play as Pink Monkey), where you have to copy the arrow compinations with your analogue controller in time to the beat. Then there's Monkey Football(Can be later replayed with Red, Blue and White Monkey) which will positively EAT away the day. This game is ultra-addictive. You'll be playing against friends, family, neighbours, the pet cat, complete strangers...It's just engrossing. I spent so long on this thing that I've christened everyone in my team Liverpool FC names. Last, there's Monkey Climber, which though ridiculously hard at first, can start to become ludicrously fun. You grab at ropes with the L1 and R1 buttons and attempt to hoist yourself through the ropes to collect 5 bananas in the time limit. Simple....But strangely entertaining.
All in all, Ape Escape is an absolute must-have. I loved this game to pieces, and I know that anyone who plays platformers, or people like me who don't, will love it too. Forget Spyro or Crash- Hikaru's the next platform hero in my concern!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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