The original Ape Escape game on the PlayStation heralded a new control system – the dual analogue stick. The game was impossible to play without a second directional input and it felt as new and different as the technology it dragged along with it. Now Sony are re-imagining Ape Escape for a new generation of gamers and, once again, it rides in on the back of a new controller.
Unfortunately, this iteration of the simian-filled action game is significantly less appealing than its ancestor. The newest Ape Escape outing feels less like it arrives on the cusp of a new and imaginative control system and more like it’s been shoved together hurriedly because Move exists and there is a shortage of new releases to use it with.[drop]It functions, in all meaningful ways, as an on-rails shooter. You’re guided through levels, firing your slingshot at a limited selection of differently-themed enemies. Periodically you’ll stop moving and have to use your net to scoop up the eponymous escaped apes as they rush towards you using different attack patterns. On top of that, you also carry a fan that can be wafted around to deflect nearby items and incoming projectiles.
There is a small element of user-controlled camera movement available using the face buttons but it’s a negligible amount that only really comes into play significantly later in the game when it serves to make judging the approach of those apes, bent on stealing your bananas, quite tricky.
You will also encounter a couple of power ups that offer minor distractions from what is very unimaginative and repetitive gameplay. There’s a hoover which sucks up items and a ray gun that turns things into bananas. As you go there are collectable bananas and occasionally batteries to grab, bolstering your life force and allowing you to activate one of the power ups. You can carry three batteries at a time so there is some extremely limited management needed in when you use the terrifically overpowered vacuum but the game is barely ever so difficult that it will be a consideration for most. In fact, most of the difficulty comes in the frustrating randomness of attack patterns and camera positioning – something that is impossible for the user to preempt.
It’s likely that younger players will find some entertainment in the bright colours, manic gameplay and cut scenes but that entertainment may well be short lived when each experience fails to change much more than the backdrop and enemies. There are also a few times that things get a little frantic and might perhaps require more precision than the average under-five can muster.[drop2]This really is a far cry from the mischievous joy that permeated the original platform games. There’s not much soul to it and the snatched moments of enjoyment, such as they are, are few and far between. Even the multiple tacked-on mini games, which do at least try to add a bit of variation to the gameplay, soon outstay their welcome.
- If you haven’t used Move in a while it gives you a chance to charge it.
- Bright, might entertain the youngest members of the family.
- Unimaginative gameplay and little variation in the level design.
- Nothing new or different and it doesn’t excel at the old, tired things it does.
- Almost completely bereft of the charm and character in its namesake.
There really is very little to this game, which is possibly why it’s being sold at a budget price (RRP of £24.99). It’s difficult to justify its release as a disc-based game though when it would be almost excusable as a sub-£10 PSN downloadable. As it is, this feels like it could just be a re-skin of any one of a dozen poor quality Wii shovelware titles that we all feared when Sony’s Move controller was first showcased and we would have difficulty endorsing that kind of product to anyone but the youngest, most easily amused.