Ape Escape PlayStation 3
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by SCE Japan Studio
Whenever there's a new piece of gaming hardware there is always at least one game that at the time probably seemed like a good idea but the end result ends up being quite different. The Ape Escape series has long been a popular one on Sony's gaming platforms and the series seems like it could be an ideal fit for the PlayStation Move controller. However, Ape Escape for the PlayStation feels half-hearted and a missed opportunity.
Ape Escape, known as PlayStation Move Ape Escape in the US, offers a Story and Mini Games mode. The Story mode plays like an on-rails shooter (there are times when you can turn to the left and right but otherwise you have no control over your movement) where the objective is basically for you to catch the monkeys that run towards you using a large net. Essentially you're trying to catch these monkeys who are arriving from outer space for a couple of sisters who believe they are something to do with their missing grandmother (a grandmother who looks like she has a mango firmly lodged in either cheek I might add). The storyline is delivered through some impressive anime cut scenes but in every other respect the game is a disappointment.
To catch the monkeys (it's called Ape Escape but they do look more like chimpanzees than apes) you'll have to complete a range of challenges that are set in a variety of various themed areas and attempt to catch all of the monkeys who, for some reason, aren't trying to run away from you at all. In fact they like to run toward you and it's up to you to catch them with your big Monkey Net. As you travel on rails around these areas you'll encounter other creatures ranging from large monkeys to robots and to help you deal with them you'll have a Smasher (looks like a big paper fan), a Slingshot, an Ape Vacuum and the wonderfully named Banannerizer. The motion controls work quite well but there are problems that prevent this from being an enjoyable experience. The main problem with the single-player game is that for the most part, it's far too easy; although there some difficultly spikes with later challenges in the game that seem completely at odds with how easy the bulk of the game is. Your performance in each of the challenges will determine whether you earn bronze, silver or gold medals but this feels redundant as you'll almost always earn a gold medal in most challenges. The Story mode is also very repetitive and even the biggest Ape Escape fans won't take long to tire of the gameplay.
Once you're finished with the Story mode, there's the Mini Games mode to tackle but things hardly get any better here. Here you'll team up with a friend to take part in a few co-operative challenges. For instance there's a game called Mecha Tag Rally which requires one player to steer the RC car, using the Dualshock (or Sixaxis) controller, around a circuit that's lined with obstacles whilst the other player, using the PlayStation Move controller, will attempt to fire at the obstacles and move them out of way. Again the gameplay in the Mini Games mode is lacklustre at best. Steering the RC car around for instance is horrible and at times it feels like you have little control over the car. The game could really have done with a competitive multiplayer mode or at the very least a co-operative multiplayer mode that was enjoyable but sadly neither are on offer here.
The game's presentation is quite good. We've already mentioned the impressive anime cut scenes which really are the highlight of the game. The rest of the game looks quite decent too, although I think it's fair to say that the PlayStation 3 is easily capable of better looking graphics than are on display in Ape Escape. At least the visual charm of the Ape Escape series remains intact. The game is subtitled but not all of the dialogue in the game is subtitled. In the opening cut scene for instance only the comments made by the news broadcaster are subtitled while other comments are not subtitled. The comments in the other cut scenes are subtitled however. During the game there are no subtitles for the exclamation of 'gotcha' which is spoken every time you catch a monkey. The game's tutorial messages are subtitled however so you'll have no problems in learning how to use the various 'weapons' that are at your disposal in the game. In short whilst the subtitling isn't perfect, there's nothing here which should cause any problems for deaf gamers.
The PlayStation Move controller has been out a while now and there are plenty of games that make much better use of it than Ape Escape. There's nothing here to justify a price tag of more than a few pounds and the fact that its retail price is £24.99 (according to Amazon at the time of writing) is shocking in all honesty although most places online seem to have priced the game at under £15 but at that price it's really not worth it. Most fans of the Ape Escape series will be extremely disappointed with the game and will certainly have hoped for much more. If you're just looking for a game to use your PlayStation Move controller with, there's much better out there than Ape Escape.