Review: Ape Escape (Move)

Sony’s console has been in homes for a few years now, and we’ve all seen the new controller they’ve introduced that allows whole new ways to interact with your games. One of the first games to be released to really take advantage of this new hardware is Ape Escape by Studio Japan.

Welcome to 1997.

Yes I was actually talking about the original Playstation console. It may seem an alien concept, but the original PS joypad had purely digital controls – D-Pad, face buttons, shoulder buttons – that was your lot. Then along came the new Dual Analog(ue) controller (no rumble, that came later with the Dual Shock) and, yes, whilst many games supported it, Ape Escape was the first game to actually require those now familiar twin sticks.

So this brings us to 2011…

Sony’s console has been in homes for a few years now, and we’ve all seen the new controller they’ve introduced that allows whole new ways to interact with your games…

Feeling a sense of déjà vu?

OK, so history may be repeating itself slightly, so does the new Ape Escape match up to the original’s innovative control method, imaginative game play, and just plain addictiveness?


Oh, wait, you wanted more? Ok well what we have here is essentially a glorified light gun game with a tacked-on nonsensical plot told through some anime cut scenes that, for a start, jar with the artistic style of the game itself.

You’re not going to make me explain the plot are you? OK, you are the neighbour of a couple of girls who are trying to track down their grandmother. They used one of her inventions and somehow managed to attract a bunch of UFOs full of the eponymous apes, and you get roped into helping them capture them all, in the hope that you can track down one called Specter who – hello? Is anyone still reading this? No? Right.

Plot = catch apes. A lot.

The way the game itself plays out, is partially an on-rails shooter, part monkey catcher. You are armed with three weapons – your basic net for catching monkeys, a slingshot for collecting stuff,  and rather bizarrely something that appears to be a fan for hitting obstacles to clear your path.

Each level is split into smaller areas where you are expected to catch all the apes you can find… Of course, I say “find”, they take it in turns to run up to you and steal your bananas that for some unexplained reason act as your life-bar. A well timed swipe of your net will capture a monkey as he runs up to you, but if you miss, he will grab 5 bananas and run back into the screen and do a little dance to taunt you. If you’re quick and can shoot him with your slingshot before he eats them, you’ll get your bananas back again. Other than using the move control to aim at the screen, you can press O or X to turn left or right on the spot. You also have batteries you can collect that will power up your weapons temporarily, such as into a vacuum to suck monkeys out of the background, or a zapper to turn them into bananas.

When you’ve cleared the area of monkeys, you will then be slowly transported to the next area and this is the on-rails shooter part of the game, where you have the chance to replenish your bananas. Yes, I said “replenish your bananas.”

After a few of these areas are cleared, you will reach an end of level boss, which is invariably a monkey you think is Specter, but will shockingly turn out to not be.

Well how does the game play? To be honest, it’s very repetitive, and the only real variation is the scenery – you will go from carnival level to winter levels to dinosaur levels. There is some variation in the fact that there are loads of different types of monkeys in the game, some may shoot you, some weave about, some are slow, some are fast, but essentially they are all doing the same thing. On the harder levels, the constantly having to switch between net and slingshot is quite fiddly, as in the heat of the moment you often end up switching to the wrong weapon which wastes time and proves to be frustrating.

As for the Move controls themselves, they are fairly responsive, and the key to the game is being able to swipe your net at just the right angle and position to catch each monkey. This sounds good, but to give you an example of how it actually plays out, I was having some trouble with my HDMI cable, and my screen blacked out for about 30-40 seconds. While I waited for my display to come back on, I just kept waving my Move controller left and right as fast as I could. When it came back, I’d cleared the area. I’d caught every single monkey without losing a single banana.

Rather than having a difficulty level you can change, each level is marked up as Easy, Normal or Hard, which can prove annoying for younger children, as it could essentially make huge chunks of the game inaccessible.

On a positive note there is plenty of replayability. You get medals based on how well you did on each level, and there is an encyclopaedia of monkeys so you can keep track of which ones you have caught. There are also some co-operative mini-games you can play – for example, one of you controls a remote control car using a standard controller while the other uses the Move controller to shoot monkeys and bananas, which at least adds a bit of variety.

Now one thing I’m conscious of, is that I’m probably not the target market for this game, so in the interest of balance, I got my two kids to try it out and write a mini-review…

Jem, age 8 – “It’s one the of the best games ever! It’s brilliant! I love how you actually have to control the net to catch the monkeys. The quick monkeys were hard to catch, but that makes it more fun. I liked how the weapons change when you get the batteries, like when you turn the monkeys into bananas!”

Harriet, age 12 – “I thought it was really fun, but it was a bit hard because the monkeys were too quick and it was difficult to switch weapons when they stole your bananas.”

So it seems to have gone down really well with the kids, it was great hearing their laughter filling the room, they were genuinely enjoying it.  But on the other hand, since their initial play test, they’ve shown no interest at all in going back to it, which is probably far more telling.

Is it worth buying? Well IF it were priced at around £6, IF it was a downloadable title, and IF you have kids, then I’d happily overlook its shortcomings and recommend it and probably give it a 7.

But as a £25 disc? Sorry, Studio Japan, history is not repeating itself here.

Reviewed on PS3

1 Comment

  1. This game’s only HUGE downfall is it’s price. As you said, if it were $5-$10, it would deserve a much higher score.

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