The Ape Escape series was the first game to require the Dual Shock controller, as it uses the analog sticks as the main controls. For example, if you find yourself in a boat with oars, you had to rotate the sticks to “row” yourself around. With the newest game in the series, Ape Escape 3, it’s more of an action-based gotta-get-em-all platformer geared for a younger audience.
With this new gameplay angle, the “cutesy” factor of this game reaches new levels, with heath measured in cookies and lives measured in T-shirts. As a result, you really want to brush your teeth after sitting down with this for a few hours. Even the graphics scream “cutesy,” as the menu interface is so basic and similar to games such as Hot Shots Golf that I would swear it’s the same development team.
The basic plot for Ape Escape 3 involves a bad guy taking over a TV studio, so expect to see parodies of movies like Monday The 16th, complete with a monkey in a hockey mask. Players warp to each of these parody stages via a central hub, which is also where you can check the data files of your captured monkeys, buy mini-games, books, music and health. There is also a movie theatre there in which you can watch cut scenes and, last but not least, a training room.
All told, you have to catch 400 monkeys with numerous gadgets, each stage beginning with players needing to catch a certain number of monkeys. Some are out in the open and some are hidden, requiring you to use various tools to find and unlock the hidden spaces and spring the hidden monkeys, all while avoiding various robotic henchmen. If you play the game as it’s meant to be played, you are supposed to sneak up on the monkeys and catch them unawares, but it’s also entirely possible to run and gun your way through each level. Consequently, the difficulty really isn’t too hard, and clearing the stage doesn’t require you to catch every monkey, as you can revisit every stage after finishing it.
In addition to the ability to replay levels, there’s also a fair bit to do and collect, and there’s even a mini game available after you beat the game that’s basically Metal Gear Solid with monkeys. And surprisingly, it’s done quite amazingly well. This should keep the average 10 year-old engaged for quite a bit. Heck, it kept me engaged.
The controls aren’t as smooth as they could be, with the left stick used for movement and the right stick used for making use of whichever item you have equipped. To change your equipped item, you simply press the corresponding face button, but some of these require you to also click-in the analog stick, which makes it somewhat hit-and-miss depending on the area you’re in. The camera, too, can be a real pain, as it’s to slow to follow you when you move. Fortunately, there is a re-center feature for the camera, but when chasing an irate monkey that’s throwing banana peels at you, it becomes a bit of a struggle.
The soundtrack doesn’t really stand out, although the sound effects are good. The voice acting is geared to a younger audience, and I would have preferred the option to switch it to Japanese, but it doesn’t reach the point where you want to turn the sound off entirely.
Although Ape Escape 3 includes a new gameplay feature (morphing into a more-powerful version of your character), the overall cutesy factor is a bit surprising. On the whole it’s a solid game, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
- Gameplay: 8
- Pretty solid, but it takes awhile to adjust to its annoying camera and some tricky moves.
- Graphics: 7.5
- Bright, sunny pastels with some amusing boss design.
- Sound: 7
- There’s a soundtrack, but you’ll mostly being hearing the monkeys drown everything out.
- Replay: 8
- Lots to do, mini games, books, cinemas, music and more.
- Overall: 7.5
- A solid title that delivers your money’s worth, but I can mostly imagine younger ones having fun with it.
— Phil Vollmer