That Aussie Ninja is one cheeky monkey
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Tue, 1 August 2006
by: Australian Ninja
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In the tradition of "Hail to the Chimp" and "Chocolate Ape Goes Bananas" comes another classic Simian caper. The timeless tale of a girl, a boy, a nutty professor, and more monkeys than you can shake a banana shaped stick at.
Ape Escape 3 has Specter unleashing still more monkeys on the world to create all sorts of havoc. Has it been done before? Yes. Does the story really matter to anyone? Absolutely not. The important thing is the fun people will have catching all the monkeys in the game and the laughs along the way.
I played the original Ape Escape on PS1 and it was tremendous fun. Wanted to get Ape Escape 2 for a long time but never did, it became a bit obscure to find. So when Ape Escape 3 turns up in the mail for review - the smile on my face was a mile wide. I had long given up hope of playing more Ape Escape and was unaware that Ape 3 had been planned. [FYI Ape Escape 4 is on its way also.]
Right from the start, I was in heaven. Ape 3 is just gaming bliss. It's not what you would call a 'must have' but it is a game that keeps you interested from start to finish. The pacing is brilliant, new gadgets, costumes /personas keep things fresh all the way to the end of the game.
Imagine playing a game where you get new and useful abilities throughout the entire game. Each one more fun and bizarre than the previous. And then when you finish the game the first time, you gain one final ability.The credits roll, then it's back to catching the rest of the monkeys.
Same deal as the original really. Whatever, it's non-linear in some ways and I like the fact that you think you've finished, but in reality you've completed 50% of the game.
Graphically Ape Escape 3 is pretty. But not even close to the other high end Playstation games in terms of lighting, textures, graphical effects etc. Ape 3 is cartoony, simple and clean. Sort of like the old Spyro games. What I'm getting at, is that when a game is made - just because the medium is capable of fancy looks, doesn't mean you need to use all the abilities of the system, all of the time.
Case in point - Vib Ribbon. I guess I'm also thinking of the puzzle games and such you see on the GBA and DS - simple, clean, effective. There's a difference between making a plain looking game, and choosing certain pleasing aesthetics that suit your genre. Ape 3 has its own look and feel, and I like it a lot.
I could crap on all day about how much I like the Ape Escape series. There is something so intrinsically cool about games that star monkeys. Donkey Kong, King Kong and the rest. But I thought I'd highlight the things that made the game special for me rather than just repeat verbatim what was good about this game and the two before it.
Basically Ape 3 does everything the games before it did so well, but with added bells and whistles. It plays wonderfully; so much work is put into the design of the controls that it just boggles my mind.
So why is Ape 3 so special? Well, number one would be the fun factor. Anybody who's wise enough to keep coming back to Buttonhole would know that some of us here are just nuts about gaming. And some of us are just nuts. Sometimes when you play ten tons of wonderful games, it can get boring. Most of the time it rocks, but sometimes you get burned out. Ape 3 is the game that makes you feel like a ten year old kid in a free candy store. When I started playing it, I literally felt giddy with excitement. Especially when I caught my first monkey. The basic gameplay is just genius, with tight controls and the game is so funny, the humour is just bursting out of the seams of this game.
Another reason is the mini-games. Frankly, two of them are so-so. But the third. Well the third makes the others look like dirt. The "Mesal Gear Solid" mini-game was the biggest and most unexpected surprise for me when playing Ape 3.
|Every game should have monkeys |
You don't unlock it until about three-quarters through the game. Basically you play as a monkey, dressed as Snake from Metal Gear, mullet and all. Before the mini-game starts a very long cut-scene plays out between Roy Campbell and the Professor from the Ape Escape series. I won't ruin it for anyone, because it's laugh out loud funny.
But as crazy as taking a monkey dressed up as Snake is, they actually explain it in a slightly believable manner - that makes sense to both the Ape and Metal Gear series. In the game your banana gun has a laser sight. You can crawl, press up against walls and it pretty much plays just like the usual Metal Gear formula, but simplified. The radar is there, and when the alert goes off, the monkey guards go bananas attacking you. This mini-game I really enjoyed and it's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Metal Gear series.
Snake even talks to you on your Codec, and your mission is to rescue Snake himself. Snaky Monkey is no longer just the alternate name of an old Jacky Chan Kung-Fu film. No, Snaky Monkey is the words that to me best describe this mini-game.
The other reason that the game was so special for me is the pop-culture references. The over-flow of pop-culture shenanigans were a real highlight. As usual, in this series, looking at the monkey with the monkey radar will give their name and a short message about the monkey. Along with this though is an abundance of monkeys with different costumes. I remember in the original the monkeys pretty much looked the same as each other. In Ape 3 the same basic character model is used for every monkey, with different costumes applied. Where this comes into its own is the themes.
"Can you tell me how to get to Simian Street?" contains monkeys in pink bunny costumes hopping around. Other levels have monkeys dressed as Kung-Fu warriors, Wild West monkeys with hats and guns and the list goes on. There are so many cool themes to the levels and monkey costumes that I don't remember even half of them.
New to Ape 3 are the costumes for your character. These costumes or 'personas' as I think of them give you totally different abilities than your usual net and radar. In fact, when you transform into Wild West Kid, Fantasy Knight, The Ninja, Kung-fu persona, Superhero persona or the Arabian Dancer with a genie - you won't have access to your net or radar. Each persona has their own attack, alternate attack and unique version of the monkey capture net. You can transform into a persona of your choice at any time - once you've unlocked that particular costume/ability.
There is a thirty second timer that runs while you are transformed but you can easily gain power-ups to replenish time by destroying enemies and boxes. The timer works well to keep you on your feet and thinking fast. Some sections in the game require the use of a specific persona. For example large buttons that can only be punched and broken by the Kung-Fu warrior, horizontal ropes that can only be walked by the Ninja.
It's usually immediately obvious what persona is required for a task and the in-game tutorials will quickly bring you up to speed on the costumes strengths and abilities.
In one section of the game I might turn into Ninja to walk the rope, then immediately turn into Genie Dancer to dance a troublesome monkey [with a gun] into submission.
I should mention that the persona abilities drastically change the core gameplay. Where you would normally rely on your stun club and net, here you mostly use the personas because it is easier to catch the monkeys that way. However, you can still use all the old gadgets, and everything in the game is essential to use at some point. Some people might be turned off by these new additions to the series, but I loved them. I don't know how I could play an Ape Escape game now without them. How often do you get to be a Ninja, Kung-Fu warrior, Cowboy/girl, Japanese Superhero and more all in the one game?
One of the coolest abilities by far is the dancing genie. You control your own genie and command it to dance at your command. How is that useful? You can make the monkeys dance. While they dance they are helpless to run away. That means you can actually use dance as a weapon. I love that. It's inventive and downright hilarious watching the monkeys dance uncontrollably.
But it doesn't end there. There is a shop in the game to buy artwork, new shells for the RC Car and best of all - new music tracks for the genie. When you command your genie to dance a music track plays along. Pop, blues, classical. All good fun.I like firing guns and blowing stuff up in games a whole lot, but using dance as a weapon, I like that even more. That's thinking outside the box SCEJ / SCE. Bravo.
I really can't stress enough how much fun I had playing this game. Pure quality gameplay. The game is easy overall, but never too easy - plenty of challenges that stop you in your tracks thinking "how the heck do I get to that monkey?"
|The chicks on Big Brother really aren't all that attractive |
Great controls, funky sounds. The only downside? It's a little on the short side, around 10 hours long if you're familiar with how it plays, but longer for those who have never sampled the greatness of Ape Escape.
Worth buying if you are a big fan of the series, otherwise you might as well rent it. The monkey net and radar are still two of the greatest gameplay inventions I've ever encountered. Hee hee, monkeys.
by: Australian Ninja
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More articles by Australian Ninja
Clever, inventive, refreshingly unique and how they crammed so many good ideas and ten tons of fun into one game I don't know