Platform: Sony Playstation Portable
Rating: E (Everyone)
Release Date: 03/16/2005
The Dual Shock controller is now the standard Playstation controller, but some fans may have forgotten the PS1 actually shipped with a Digital pad, and it was only after Nintendo 64 was released that Sony upgraded the controller. One of the early killer apps of the Dual Shock controller was Ape Escape, a fun platformer that’s primary means of control was using both analog sticks at once.
Now as the PSP launches in America, a handheld version of the original Ape Escape goes portable with On The Loose. Can the unique control scheme and offbeat humor of the original Ape Escape translate onto PSP and its single analog nub?
As platformers go, Ape Escape has a pretty solid storyline. A monkey named Specter took a helmet from the Professor’s lab, turning him into a super intelligent monkey. Specter took his new-found intelligence and decided to use a time machine (also in the Professor’s lab) to go back through time, and using a wild bunch of monkeys in helmets to wreck havoc on the course of history.
It’s up to you, as Spike, to go to various time periods (broken into substages) and collect the monkeys and save humanity from the history-changing evil scheme of Specter. The monkeys have different helmets throughout the game, signifying different specialties, which usually translates into their method of attack that Spike must overcome to catch them.
Story Rating: 9/10
The graphics on the PS1 original were colorful and vibrant, with a surprisingly far sight line. The PSP version does a good job of bringing those visuals on the go, with higher resolution textures and an overall bright colorful feel to the game. One major misfire is the extensive use of fogging, with the sightline on each level not nearly as far as one might imagine.
However, that does not do much to diminish the overall graphic feel, which is happy and at times futuristic, but it never looses the game’s charm. Each of the game’s monkeys has a personality of its own, fitting into one of several categories noted by the color of hat the monkey is wearing.
Graphics Rating: 6.5/10
The light hearted music fit Ape Escape well. The monkeys might be crazy and on the loose, but the mood is never serious, despite the monkeys using guns and other means of attack. There are also fun sound effects for the apes as well as mediocre voice acting throughout by the professor and other characters.
Sound Rating: 6/10
Obviously with only one analog stick, the PSP version of Ape Escape controls far differently than its console counterparts. The analog nub is used to move around, and using the gadgets assigned to each face button is executed by pressing that button. The gadgets themselves are fun and usually useful. At the start, Spike only has a light-sabre-like weapon and a net. The saber is used to knock monkeys down, and the net is deployed to send the monkeys back to the lab.
As the game progresses, Spike gets more and more gadgets. There is an under-water gadget that shoots web-like nets at monkeys to catch them. There is a radar system that hones in on exact monkey location. There is a radio controlled car that can be used to stun monkeys from areas inaccessible to Spike. The magic hoola hoop that speeds Spike up is the main casualty of the control change. In console versions, the hoola hoop is controlled by quickingly rotating the analog stick. The PSP version uses repeated presses of the corresponding button, which isn’t nearly as fun. That minor complaint aside, the variety of gadgets and the unique way the game uses them is a breathe of fresh air for 3D platformers, even though the game is nearly a decade old.
Players who never had played the original would feel like the controls are simple and intuitive. However, veteran Ape Escape fans will cant escape the feeling that the game is lacking that extra special feeling by limiting the control to only one analog nub. It still controls great – it’s just not as innovative as it was.
Control Rating: 8/10
Much like other games in the platforming genre, Ape Escape: On The Loose encourages repeated play of the same levels to gain access to previously unreachable areas or just to catch up on collecting some of the extra monkeys on each stage. There are 200 monkeys to catch in the game, although not nearly that many are needed to beat the game. Plus there are minigames to unlock, which are pretty fun.
Replay Rating: 7.5/10
As the game progresses, Spike is given access to more and more gadgets. Each gadget is introduced with a tutorial level, which allows Spike to practice using the new gadget on some dummy monkeys. These tutorials are useful even for players that played through the original on PS1 – the new style of control does take some slight adjustments.
Balance Rating: 7/10
Even so many years after it’s original release, Ape Escape stands out as not only an original platformer for PSP (since it’s the only one so far), but original throughout the platforming genre. The PS2 Ape Escape games have largely flown under the radar, but the series was thrust back into the spotlight as part of the PSP launch, and holds up well against other newer platformers on modern consoles. As far as handheld platformers, it’s tough to even call Ape Escape the best 3D platformer, with Mario 64 DS released just a few months ago.
Originality Rating: 7/10
The monkeys will draw you in and you will find it hard to tear yourself anyway from the game. Ape Escape does a good job of mixing up gameplay as the game moves along to keep the game fresh, as well as providing a wide variety of monkeys to keep an otherwise mundane-seeming task of monkey collecting fresh and fun.
Plus, the multiplayer party games are extremely fun and add life to the game even after the main quest is completed and all 200 monkeys are captured. In particular the monkey Ping Pong is great.
Addictiveness Rating: 7/10
If cute monkeys causing havoc is appealing to you, as it is to me, Ape Escape is your game. There is nothing more satisfying than nabbing an extra annoying monkey who had been gunning at you with a tommy gun.
Appeal Rating: 8/10
In a sea of slick, polished, modern style games for the launch of PSP, it is a refreshing change to have a sugary sweet action platformer bursting with color and style. The vibrant colors of Ape Escape have been perfectly tuned for PSP, with the large screen bursting with color and animation most of the time during the game.
With that said, there is also the now-often problem with PSP games, and that is loading time. The game seems to load on the slow side, with loading necessary between most levels and cut scenes. For a portable experience, it is at times frustrating. In the future, game developers should consider offering a “quick mode” to omit all story and narrative for gamers who just want to play the game.
Misc Rating: 5/10
Overall Score: 70/100
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (GOOD!)