Review by Pinchie McPinch
Reviewed: 01/24/06 | Updated: 05/15/08
Ape Escape, the third installment. Decidedly twisted with a dash of monkeys.
Ape Escape remains one of the few PS2 platformer franchises surviving to this day with its roots in the original Playstation. The formula's simple: Take one bitter albino monkey with a bad accent, add super-intelligence and stir in a liberal amount of corny jokes. Bake until slightly overdone.
The formula remains the same. Once again Specter the white monkey has acquired a Monkey Helmet and become a super villain and it's up to you, the player, to stop him. This time he's using a vast worldwide TV network to hypnotise the entire planet, and he's managed to succeed in getting all the previous Ape Escape characters except Mitsumi into a hypnotic trance. Unable to awaken them, Mitsumi being the smart young redhead she is consults the only people she knows can help; A small boy and girl. You as a player choose which of the young pair you want to play as.
As in the previous games you play a child pressured into working your preteen butt off catching every super-intelligent monkey in Specter's army and ultimately facing off against the albino antagonist himself in a battle to the death. Again repeating previous iterations, you have a whole host of "Gotcha Gadgets" with which to combat the apes, from a remote-control car to a hula-hoop of mega speed to a simple blue shiny club. Eventually every monkey will be caught in your Gotcha Net, a net on a pole which teleports the monkeys back to some ne'er-mentioned laboratory where they are possibly experimented on for allegedly devious purposes - or so I hear.
As with Ape Escape 2, previous fans won't need to learn anything drastically new to start playing. The controls are simple: Left analog to move, right analog to attack, X/Square/Triangle/Circle to select items, R1 to jump. It's not hard to comprehend, and it's still an effective control mechanism. A welcome new addition in this game is the ability to quickly cycle the Gotcha Gadgets assignments by pressing the corresponding button until it's on the gadget you want. It saves the stalling in play to change gadgets that was often necessary in Ape Escape 1 and 2.
Veterans of the series won't be surprised to see that the Magnet from Ape Escape 2 has been removed. It always felt superfluous, and didn't add any depth to the puzzles at all. They will be surprised, however, by the new Morph ability. By pressing R1+R2, a menu opens up with an assortment of different morphs to use, from a medieval knight through to a ninja, a genie charmer and even a cowboy. Each morph has its own special method of monkey catching and unique weapon, but unfortunately most are redundant as far as puzzle solving goes. The only morphs you really need to reuse later are the Miracle Ninja for his rope-walking ability, the Medieval Knight for his fire blocking, and the Cyber Ace for his flying. Even the special genie charmer puzzles are redundant after being deciphered once, since they nearly all involve opening a door via a switch on the other side. The door then remains open forever. Other than the few required for the handful of morph-specific challenges, you can use whatever morph you want at your leisure as long as you have your magical green energy, handily dropped by most of the enemies. Once you fill your gauge, you can activate a morph for a limited amount of time during which collecting more green energy increases the timer. Items can be bought to let you store full energy gauges in reserve, allowing more time to be spent as your favourite monkey-catching miracle ninja. Overall the morph concept is achieved well, but a little more focus on integrating them into more of the puzzles would have been better.
Once again the overall strategy of the game is the same. You catch a certain amount of monkeys on a level to clear it and advance to the next level. The 5 boss monkeys from Ape Escape 2 are back to do their evil business to break up the endless levels of monkey-catching with some of super-monkey-catching. Eventually you reach Specter, by which time you realise there's much more to this problem. Every monkey must be captured. Not surprisingly more monkeys magically appear, bringing the total number to over 400. Adding to the total are secret apes requiring a secret password obtained by accomplishing specific tasks to even appear in the levels. Four apes in each level are located in a room visible and accessible only if you are using the last and most hilarious morph. Nope, I'm not going to tell you what it is. Sorry!
A vast array of side-projects are available when not catching monkeys. A small shopping plaza provides ways to spend the coins collected throughout the levels, from all the incredible musical arrangements to be played in the in-game music player to movies, short books, photos, extra RC cars, lives and even selections of Specter TV programs depending on what you may have caught those monkeys doing on camera. The best thing to purchase however, and other drawing card to the Ape Escape series, is the selection of mini games that has traditionally been available in each title. Ape Escape 3 is no exception. Once again there are three games available, this time they are a hammer throw competition, a 2D fighter and most exciting of all a Metal Gear Solid game that deserves a paragraph unto itself.
This isn't the first time Ape Escape and MGS have united. Metal Gear Solid 3 had Snake vs Monkey mode, in which Snake used Gotcha Gadget-like items to catch apes scattered through MGS3 levels. Ape Escape 3 has Mesal Gear Solid, in which the monkey Pipo Snake (or Ape Snake, as Roy Campbell calls him) uses MGS3-like weapons to free hostages and aid Snake in destroying the next Mesal Gear in AE3 levels. Don't fool yourself, this is no pseudo-MGS. This IS Metal Gear Solid. It has the full game play and atmosphere of MGS when you can stop laughing at the fact the monkey is a Snake. You have to free Snake (the human) who is holed up in the complex where Mesal Gear is housed, and destroy Mesal Gear yourself if necessary. It sounds absurd, but somehow they manage to pull the suspension of disbelief. You aren't a monkey, you're a Snake. The MGS details are incredible, from the camouflage title screen (with Pipo Snake instead of Snake in the background) to the actual musical score from MGS. A lot of MGS fans will want to buy this game solely for this. The movie sequences are indescribable, and entirely unspoilable. Suffice to say, there's a hilariously-quirky conversation between certain Ape Escape and MGS characters, but I couldn't live with the guilt of spoiling you with the details.
So onto the conclusion. Here is my overall view, with some comments thrown in for good measure.
Game play: 7/10
Same old faithful Ape Escape game play, but with some good additions.
Moderately harder than the previous games, extra lives are scarcer.
Fun mini games, although only two of the three are 2-player.
Sometimes the camera can creep a little close and narrow your field of vision.
Music is superb, as always.
The sounds are great, although once again the jumping sound and monkey-catching celebration get very repetitive.
Total Longevity: 7/10
There are a LOT of things to buy from the shop, and many are even worth looking at.
There are a hell of a lot of monkeys out there to catch. Monkeys in funny costumes. Must. See. All. Monkeys.
There's a full set of astrology functions. It's probably as accurate as the crazy lady the newspaper employs for horoscopes, so why not use it every day?
You're going to want to see that MGS game over and over and over again.
Time trial mode, and a survival mode which becomes available on completion of the main game.
There's this white monkey. He got smart and gathered an army of other monkeys. Catch them and get the head monkey.
Main Game Replay value: 4/10
You already have to replay the levels once over again to get every monkey to complete the game. Why play again?
If you're really bored there's time trial and survival mode for the the crazed and those obsessed with completion percentage.
Overall: 8/10 (Not an average)
It's Ape Escape. If you liked 1 or 2 then you deserve to get yourself this game. If you didn't like the previous titles then there's nothing here for you but a Metal Gear Solid mini game that you have to defeat Specter to even access in the shop. It's as simple as that.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Ape Escape 3 (US, 01/17/06)
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