PSP Previews: Ape Escape: On The Loose Preview

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Ape Escape: On The Loose Preview

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Scheduled release date:

Spring 2005

Genre:

Action/Platformer

We already told you last month about one of the Ape Escape games that Sony is working on for the PSP handheld. Now, thanks to the company's presence at the recent CES show in Las Vegas, we can tell you about the other.

Ape Escape Remake (tentative title) for the PSP is a revamped remake of the original Ape Escape game that was published for the PSOne back in 1999.

For those of you that never got a chance to play the original game, here's the gist of it: A monkey named "Specter," who has had his intelligence boosted thanks to an electronic helmet, has gone back in time to take over the world. He has strapped helmets onto more than 200 other monkeys, and the group intends to supplant humanity as the dominant species by interfering with key events in history. Players assume the role of a young boy named Spike, who is sent back in time to catch the monkeys... using primarily a net.

Don't ask us why a young boy is given the task of capturing hyper-intelligent monkeys using only a net. He can run, jump, and creep up behind his prey, but we'd still have given him a giant laser gun. Okay, okay, so Spike eventually does acquire a few helpful gadgets, such as a stun stick and slingshot, but the concern still remains -- he has his work cut out for him.

Anyway, as far as we could tell from the CES demo, this "new" PSP game is mostly identical to the original PSOne game. Gameplay still involves finding and capturing monkeys that are located in large 3D environments. Sneaking, climbing, and platform-jumping elements are all big parts of the game's design style. When you find a monkey, you have to sneak up on it and try to capture it in your net. Doing so is difficult since monkeys will run if they see you, and sometimes they have weapons to use against you. The main map revealed seven different time periods and 20 individual levels, which is the same number the original game had.

Only a few levels were available in the demo, but from what we played, Sony has done a good job tweaking the game for the PSP. Although the graphics haven't been improved in a significant way (the characters and environments totally scream "PSOne"), the draw distance and frame rate have been kicked up so that there's less fog obscuring distant areas and so that character and camera movement isn't as jerky. The music and sound effects have also been completely remixed to take advantage of the greater polyphony and sample rates offered by the PSP hardware.

The PSOne game employed a unique dual-analog control scheme that allowed players to move, grab items, and activate different uses of Spike's tools without much need for the controller buttons. For instance, rotating the right stick with the "Sky Flier" tool enabled would allow Spike to fly across great distances. Due to the PSP's hardware configuration (single analog nub), Ape Escape Remake employs a more traditional control scheme, whereby different buttons activate all of Spike's different abilities and attacks.

Other enhancements include new mini-games, a monkey encyclopedia, a monster encyclopedia, and a side quest involving decorations. The encyclopedias will keep track of the monkeys and monsters you encounter, and will feature 3D models and video clips that you can view. From what little information we were given, the decoration side quest is a nod to Nintendo's Animal Crossing. Throughout each level, you'll find different objects and seeds that Spike can collect. These objects can be brought back to the map hub and used to decorate the area surrounding the portals. In particular, seeds can grow into plants, some of which will grow fruit that can nurse Spike back to health or give him unique abilities.

Those of you that played Ape Escape back in the day remember that it had a couple mini-games alongside the regular quest; boxing and skiing games; which appeared throughout certain levels and were also playable from the main hub. Ape Escape Remake is set to have two additional mini-games; table tennis and race course; and all four will take advantage of the PSP's wireless multiplayer capability.

Ape Escape Remake (or whatever it ends up actually being titled) is scheduled to go on sale later this Spring.

1/13/2005 Frank Provo

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