This game is a strange case-on one hand, it’s a mediocre, lazily made game with many obvious, glaring issues and flaws-on the other, it’s actually a decent game that at least tries in a way or two to make up for it’s own shortcomings. But is it worth tracking down for a bargain bin price? Read on to find out.
While the graphics are a major improvement over the original PS1 Ape Escape, as a PSP game the graphics are really simplistic and mediocre, which is unacceptable, even for a port/launch title. The PSP is a graphical powerhouse, but this game does next to nothing to demonstrate this or take advantage of it‘s capabilities-this game could easily have been done on a Nintendo DS! At least the art and character designs are decent. And before you ask, the plot is equally simplistic and forgettable, such so that I’m not even going to bother going into it.
Unforunately, the game also falters in the sound department. The sound effects are unremarkable and generic, the music is generally very “by the numbers” and forgettable as a result. The voice acting is also rather mediocre, but I do smile whenever I hear the sound of a monkey squealing.J
But thankfully the gameplay itself is actually worth a look. There are 19 large levels in the entire game. In each one, your goal is to catch a certain number of monkeys (usually you don’t need to collect every single monkey in the levels, and some monkeys need gadgets you get later one to catch) to complete the level and progress to the next one. Along the way you traverse hazardous territory, and have the occasional enemy and boss fight. You also earn several gadgets along the way to help you, and some of them are actually fun to use. (I.e. the hula hoop, the flying oar, the rc car) Also, on two occasions a special level (Jake Attacks Part 1 & Jake Attacks 2) pops up which pits you in a unique footrace course against your rival to earn Specter Coins. (I’ll get to that in a little bit) Thankfully these are completely optional, since the second one is surprisingly tough. The levels are well designed, but are usually rather dull looking and unimaginative, with a few exceptions. (I.e. the beach level, the one where you’re inside a giant monster)
The game’s difficulty is pretty low, but the game is rather slow paced and plodding, and I recommend this game is best played in short bursts for maximum enjoyment, since the game can get exasperating quickly. And the monkeys themselves can be irritating to catch sometimes.
The controls are decent, but not great. You use the analog nub to move, and while it does it’s job, it doesn’t exactly allow for very precise movement a game like this sometimes calls upon. The camera is operated by the L button and the D-Pad. You can map three of your eight gadgets to button icons (Square, Triangle and Circle) unlike the original which let you equip four gadgets (note: in the original, one of the shoulder buttons were used to jump) and having to frequently swap gadgets mid-play can get quite irritating after a while. And lastly, The R button is used to crawl (to sneak up on the monkeys) and X is jump/double jump. This game was originally meant to be played with a Dualshock controller, and it shows.
The gameplay gets stale after a while, but this game does have some variety and replay value. Aside from the monkeys, in each level are a set of giant “Specter Coins” which unlock four mini-games when enough are collected (40 are required to unlock them all) Three of them are original, and include a snowboarding game (decent) a boxing game (cool) and a Ping Pong game. (fun, but hard) One of them is just a condensed version of the “Jake Attacks” levels, which is really disappointing. Oh, and before I forget, this game also has a multiplayer mode for the mini-games, and the high scores in each game are saved, which I like.
However, two more flaws plaque this game-the loading times. Oh god, the loading times are just MURDER in this game. They pop up on a frequent basis, and are annoyingly long and tedious. Also, I absolutely hate how you have to return of the HUB and go to a save point in order to save/load data in game-it's a process just as long and tedious as the loading times, and definitely not well suited to a portable game. THANKFULLY the levels let you leave at any time, and once you catch a monkey you keep it forever, even if you haven’t completed the level-this is a feature I welcome with a passion, and it almost makes up for the previous flaws.
So overall this game is a mixed bag-the gameplay alone justifies a look, as long as you’re willing to put up with it’s many, many flaws along the way. It’s a case of “Diamond in the rough”, to say the least. If you can find this for at least 10$, give it a shot and see if you like it. Otherwise, just stay away.
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