Ape Escape 3
Score: 7.4 / 10
It's hard to look at the front of an Ape Escape game, and not be amused at the goofy, wide-eyed simians on the cover. The series has always been around hunting down these silly yet devious creatures, and the latest in the series is no different. But with all of the other Ape Escape tie-ins floating around lately -- especially on the PSP -- does the latest still hold up?
Escape 3's primary nemesis is Specter, the smartest monkey to ever
have lived, and he's devised a deliciously evil plan - by taking over
all of the television studios on the planet and creating the stupidest
shows ever, he intends to turn the human population into an army of
brainless couch potatoes. You pick between Kei and Yumi, two young
children, to run through each TV station and put a stop to this madness.
In each level, the goal is to catch all of the monkeys, and occasionally
fight a boss battle against The Freaky Monkey Five, a gang of thoroughly
ridiculous misfits dressed as kung fu fighters and pop idols, amongst
All of the stages are patterned after television shows or movies, leading to some interesting parodies of Indiana Jones, The Exorcist and Star Wars (you get to fight a monkey wearing a Darth Vader helmet.) Although it shows some creativity, ultimately, they're just excuses for the same cliched levels we've seen in platformers for years -- the Titantic level is a snow stage, the Indiana Jones level is a desert stage, and so on. It seems like Sony didn't pay too much attention to the translation here either. Once you figure out that "saru" means "monkey" in Japanese, then the jokes about an evil wizard named Saru-mon become a bit funnier. Otherwise, the voice acting is fairly competent, fitting in nicely with the cartoony atmosphere.
Ape Escape 3's gameplay should feel familiar to fans of the series. The left analog stick moves your character, while tilting the right will attack in the indicated direction. You jump with the right trigger buttons, and the face buttons allow you to change between gadgets. This control scheme was initially implemented to show off the analog sticks on the Dual Shock controller way back in the PSOne days, and it still feels a little bit clunky. With all of the buttons used up, there's no way to directly manipulate the
camera. Instead, you need to center it by
pressing the L1 button, which can cause for plenty of problems when
trying to nab the trickier monkeys. There are also number of vehicles,
including tanks, rowboats, race cars and bipedal mechs.
Nearly all of these are unmanageable due to the confusing controls,
especially when you're fighting one of the later bosses. The action also
suffers from an unstable framerate, as well as plenty of screen tearing
and even a bit of slowdown.
New to Ape Escape 3 are various costumes, which bestow specialized skills on your character for a limited amount of time. Some of these includes the ninja costume (which lets you run along walls and balance on tightwire), a cowboy suit (which allows for some dual analog Robotron-style shooting) and a futuristic outfit (which will let you fire lasers and speed dash a la Megaman X.) Although the "puzzles" that revolve around the different suits are quite easy, they add quite a bit of personality to the game, and they spice up the boss battles.
Ape Escape 3 is neither long nor difficult. You can beat the main
game in less than five hours, and you'll really have to put effort into
running out of lives. However, you can always go back to previous stages
to catch more monkeys, and there's a whole other "quest" to
play through after you've beaten it the first time.
the best reason to play through the game is "Mesal Gear
Solid", a parody of Konami's famous stealth series. (Once again,
the title makes more sense in Japanese -- why couldn't
have they just called it Monkey
Probably repaying the favor from the "Snake vs Monkey"
minigame from Metal Gear Solid 3, this scenario begins with Colonel
Campbell calls upon Professor Spike with a request for help - Solid
Snake has gone missing behind enemy lines, and only a lone monkey,
injected with battle data from Snake, can save the day. For the most
part, the game plays just like the Metal Gear Solid games, complete with
the dramatic camera angle shifts and futzy controls. With music and
sound effects ripped from both games, combined with all of the codec
cutscenes, it mimics the look and feel of Konami's game almost
perfectly. It's hilarious to set off an alarm, watch all of the enemy
monkeys scamper around mindlessly, waving around their banana guns, and
the sirens on their heads blinking until they calm down. There are even
several (rather creepy) posters of scantily clad female apes lying
around. The only problems lie with the voice acting, which doesn't use
the same actors, and (once again) the inferior graphics engine.
Mesal Gear Solid is probably the best thing about Ape Escape 3, and I'd recommend the whole game solely based on it. Still, you need to play through the main story to reach it. And when you realize that a mini-game is better than the actual game, it kinda sends off signals that something is a little bit wrong. Ape Escape 3 otherwise has its moments, even if it's a little simplistic and shallow. The series as a whole has been surpassed by better platformers on the Playstation 2, although there's really nothing else that exudes the same kind of goofy charm.
- Kurt Kalata
(March 13, 2006)
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