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A.P.I Review: Ape Escape
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Distributor: Sony 1 Player
Game Type: 3D Platform Memory Card
Review Date: July 1999 Only Dual Shock Compatible

Setting the Scene

Do you remember ever seeing the game called Barrel Full of Monkeys? It was a rather simple little game where the object was to capture a bunch of little plastic monkeys and put them back into the barrel. Ape Escape reminded of this game for some reason…well maybe because both games contain primates…I dunno.

At any rate, a mischievous white ape named Specter has stolen an intelligence-enhancing helmet called aptly enough, the Peak Point Helmet, from a scientist known only as The Professor. The helmets are these cool little hats with a twirling "mood" light on them, reminiscent of the cherry pickers off of police cars. Well, Specter thinks the helmet is cool and starts to equip a whole army of apes with them. Armed with some artificial intelligence, the apes break into the Professors lab where it seems that he has just completed work on a time machine and these cocky apes decide to test the sucker out. Unfortunately you just happen to be in the general area when the machine is used and you get sucked into the vortex. Now it is your job as the human named Spike to round them thar apes up and retrieve the helmets.

See, it's just liked Barrel Full of Monkeys, only now it's being played out in a video game…oh, and the monkeys are fully animated and are able to run away…and throw stuff at you…and beat the crap out of you…hell, some can even fire weapons at you. The monkeys will also try to outsmart you, hide on you, deceive you and pretty much make your life miserable. Gee, I guess it's really nothing like Barrel Full of Monkeys after all…except for all the monkey business going on!

Sound & Vision

Graphically speaking, I have seen better on the Playstation but not more than I could count on one hand. While the character models are nicely detailed and extremely well animated they are of a relatively low polygon count with minimal texture mapping so you get somewhat rough looking edges. This is acceptable though as there are quite a few characters and objects moving about the screen at once and the overall presentation is tops. All of the monkeys are very similar looking, but there are many other creatures that you will encounter during your journey to help break up any monotony. Some of the characters are huge like a wooly Mammoth, T-Rex and a psycho clown to name a few.

It also looks like programmers have really nailed the water effects on the Playstation. In Ape Escape, the water looks outstanding even when swimming through it or watching it cascade down a cliff. The only problem is when you are underwater and coming up for air…it's kinda difficult to tell where the water ends and the open air begins until you actually break the surface and the camera angle changes.

The game must really be pushing the old gray box near it's limit as there is also a bit of slowdown in some of the encounters that have a lot of action going on around you. This is one of those times that I do not attribute the slowdown to sloppy programming. I really think this is almost as good as it's gonna get in terms of graphics and on-screen movement all at once with the PSX. These slowdown events though are few and far between and never hindered my enjoyment of the game in the least.

There are also a ton of special effects used throughout the game such as lens flaring, particle effects, scaling, etc. The effects are used generously and play a big part in the overall presentation and enjoyment of the game.

The sound effects and music are also well done. Sound effects are everywhere…from the subtle jungle noises, rain sprinkles or tip tapping of footsteps to the not so subtle sounds of weapons being discharged, netting a ape or being clobbered by any number of opponents that you are likely to run into. The game is virtually alive with sounds.

The music is rather whimsical and fits in perfectly with the game at hand. In fits nicely into the background and is rather unobtrusive.


First of all, I must say that Sony is really showing their confidence in this title and their sheer amount of customers out there with Playstations. I say this because Ape Escape will only work with the relatively new Analog Controllers that Sony has developed. It probably isn't a bad gamble considering a hefty chunk of people already have at least one of these excellent controllers, but it still shows a leap of faith to some extent.

At any rate, this will be the first game that requires this controller and the control scheme was basically built around this device.

The game starts off being rather one-sided and easy in the favor of the gamer. This is good because you have the opportunity to get a feel for the dual analog system and learn the control layout, buttons, etc. Heck, this is one of the few games besides a couple of racing titles out there that actually use the R3 & L3 buttons. For those of you that didn't know these buttons existed, pick up the control pad and press in the thumb sticks. Hear that little "click", that's the R3/L3 buttons at work. Pretty damn cool. Anyway, the game ramps up at a nice pace and before you know it you are having one hell of a time tracking those little monkey bastards down. Playing as Spike, you start each level off with a 5-cookie health meter. Each time you get attacked by a monkey or another creature you lose a cookie. Toss all your cookies and it's lights out for poor old Spike.

There are 9+ worlds to explore, with many broken into 3 sub group areas called stages. For each stage you are given the required number of apes to capture before you can move on to the next area or stage. Before starting a New World you are generally given a new gadget by the professor that will help you to capture the little beasts that are running amok. You will also notice that there are apes that cannot be captured early on in the levels. For those "out of reach" apes you will need to revisit the levels when you have the appropriate gadgets that can be used to capture those pesky primates.

The levels themselves are quite diverse and well laid out. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore and as such, there are also many places for the apes hide. Learning to sneak up on a lot of these apes is essential to successfully netting them. Luckily the little light on top of the helmet is a good indicator of what type of mood the ape is in. A blue light means the ape is in a pretty mellow mood or too preoccupied to be paying attention to anyone. Yellow means he is alarmed and you need to proceed with stealth and caution. A red light indicates that the monkey is in the process of going ballistic and will try to go animal on you if you get too close.

Littered about the landscape are special items called Specter Coins that you can pick up. These coins are normally "hidden" in treetops, behind waterfalls and in all sorts of odd places. Some items like extra cookies and little twirling triangles (energy chips) can also be obtained when you whack the creatures that are roaming the land or just running into a patch of them on the ground. There is also some "free life" icons laying around if you are lucky enough to run into them.

The game is just full of nice "finishing" touches that show you the programmers really tried to deliver a complete game here. There are even three awesome mini games that can be played when you collect the proper number of Specter Coins. Each game is engaging and requires the use of the dual analog sticks to play them. Finally, you are also presented with a nice little portfolio of all the apes that you have captured. This little gallery grows as you capture monkeys and includes their names, picture, personalities and attributes.

The overall feel of the game working in sync with the analog controller is like a breath of fresh air. It takes a lot of tried and true elements from other 3D platform games, melds them all together and spits them out into a nice complete title that gamers are absolutely gonna have a blast playing. I sure as hell know that I did…heck I found it really hard to put down! This game has "buy me" written all over it people…pick up and have yourself a really good time.

GRAPHICS: 19/20 Ape Escape is an awesome new 3D platform game for the Playstation. Coupled with the "must use" dual shock analog controller, this game pulls out all of the stops and takes gamers into a whole new direction for platform titles on the Playstation.

Control, while a little strange at first, is top notch and very innovative. The wealth of control and freedom of movement will make gamers wonder what took so long to implement something of this nature.

The graphics are marvelous and the overall gameplay manages to be fresh and somewhat innovative. With the exception of the dual analog control, there is very little here that hasn't been tried before but it is so well implemented and executed in this game that is just feels fresh and new.

Ape Escape is a must have title in your Playstation library. It will drive you Ape Sh$t for sure!!
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 18/20


GRAPHICS: 19/20 Remember when you first got your hands on a Playstation control pad? After numerous years of programming your reactions on screen through a keyboard and mouse you were forced to reset your instincts to accommodate a D-pad, 4 shoulder and 4 face buttons. This was deemed acceptable because the Playstation, after all, was something entirely new. Of course some gamers were brought up on joysticks. Therefore the introduction of two twiddly analog sticks further enhanced the contraption and opened up PSX gaming to everyone. Well done Sony!

Now, in their wisdom, Sony have decided to make Ape Escape the first purely analog compatible game in their catalog. This means that those gamers who cannot get used to those two twiddly sticks (and believe me there are many)... tough luck!

My summary: There is so much to admire visually and some of the inventiveness in the gameplay is remarkable. However most of my family found the control system very frustrating and refused to persevere with Ape Escape after only a few hours. Gaming is for everyone and those who simply want to pick-up-and-play shouldn't be locked out.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20


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