Ape Escape 2 Review
There's no doubt about it, Super Mario 64 paved the way for all 3D platform titles some 8 years ago. There have been dozens and dozens of half-assed clones, and there have also been a few 3D platformers that in many ways outdid Super Mario 64 in various categories. One of the most notable of the elite few is Ape Escape. It's perhaps one of the best platform titles I've ever played. Ape Escape is not quite your typical platform title where you have to reach the peak of a stage and conquer a boss. It was innovative, awe-inspired, and most importantly, fun. Ape Escape was, and still is, the very definition of fun -- an aspect many games today lack. The original was every bit as awesome, as it was intuitive. Debuting way back in 1999, Ape Escape proved that monkeys and nets made a wonderful mix. Now, 3 years later, courtesy of Ubi Soft (God bless, you guys!) Sony has finally unleashed the true sequel to the original wonder.
The environments in the game are very diverse. They range from nice and sunny islands, to a Spanish villa, to a casino, to an icy and snowy field, and etc. The game is incredibly polished, and doesn't display a single jaggy on the screen. At first glance, the game's aesthetic style eerily resembles Super Mario Sunshine, with its simplistic but adorable background texture work. The environments are full of lush and vibrant color, almost like a Disney title. While it may not be as technically complex or as dense as Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank, Ape Escape 2's simplicity, art style and charm, make it a very pleasing title to look at it. The game runs at an absolutely perfect 60 frames per second, with not one show of a frame rate drop. Anybody who nit picks about the visuals in AE2 is playing videogames for all the wrong reasons. Eye-candy isn't all about CG anymore -- Ape Escape 2 proves this.
The game concept remains the same as the first -- catch the monkeys! But while basic elements remained unchanged, Sony added a whole bunch of new items in addition to the older ones. The game features all of the original gadgets (stun club, sky flyer, monkey net, radar, dash-hoop, water net, slingshot, punch glove, R/C car), and new gadgets which include a Bananarang, Water Cannon, and Electro Magnet. Aside from just weapons, you can now pilot some pretty cool vehicles, including: a submarine, water raft, snow sled, robot, and a tank. Couple all of that, and add game mechanics that are about as flawless as they can get and you get a game that is so maniacly addictive it's almost ludicrous.
Now, as far as the story goes, the monkeys are at it again! Spectre, that diabolical white monkey, has managed to break out by creating his very own brain enhancing helmet. With his escape, he frees all of his fellow monkey cousins (maybe sisters and brothers too?). The psycho bastard frees a total of 300 monkeys, which can only mean one thing...you have 300 monkeys to capture across dozens of stages. You will encounter various boss battles as you progress along the game. And of course, like the first, you can go back and complete each stage for a "100%" mark, by capturing the remaining monkeys and whatever other significant objects that are still in the stage. Ape Escape 2 also has three mini-games, including Monkey Soccer, Dance Monkey Dance, and Monkey Climb (a puzzle game). All in all, the game is roughly 15 hours long, if you breeze through it. Otherwise, a rough estimate would be about 20 hours for 100% completion, and you will also be rewarded with a better ending.
What I totally loved about the original Ape Escape's soundtrack was how it matched whatever atmosphere you were in. Much like the original, in the sequel when in a chilly stage, you hear a winter-esque track. When in a tropical environment, like the Spanish villa locale, you hear a very tropical and relaxing track. That kind of attention to detail in the soundtrack really pays off. It helps immerse you into the game more, and creates a more exciting atmosphere. Lastly, the game's voice acting is rather good and precise. Though, if the voice of Jimmy sounds the least bit familiar, that's because it's played by the same voice that voiced the character "Ash" in the Pokemon cartoons. Not much of a drawback, but if you really disliked him, you may be irked from time to time listening to Jimmy.
Ape Escape 2's control scheme is virtually identical to the original, with the exception of swimming. Previously, you'd have to press down L3 to dive into the water. Now, you use the right analog stick to dive, by maneuvering the directions. If you were to push up, Jimmy will dive. Push down, and he will begin to surface -- so the swimming controls are inverted and work very well. The platforms are all perfectly set up in every stage, so falling to an unexpected death is quite the rare occurrence. As a whole, this game's controls are not rocket science. Practically every nook and cranny of the controller is manipulated, but it's done so precisely good that it isn't an issue at all. As previously mentioned, the controls are exactly like the original Ape Escape, so adjusting to AE2 should take absolutely no effort.
Platform junkies who are looking for a more traditional platform title, and are turned off by the vastness of Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank must purchase Ape Escape 2. It's one of those games that you'll constantly return to, even after you've played it to death. To this day I play the original, and I've completed the import version of the sequel about three times thus far. Fortunately for us, Ubi Soft picked up the publishing rights to Ape Escape 2 and have brought over one of the very best games this genre has to offer. Ape Escape 2 is the epitome of fun, and don't you forget it.
7/4/2003 Arnold Katayev