848th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer

More monkeys? Super Monkey Ball wasn’t enough, so I’m going to go for Ape Escape, which feature more cute looking primates. We’re chasing them rather than freeing them, but the theme continues.

Our Thoughts

Ape Escape, for the most part, plays like the collect-a-thon action platformers of its era – not unlike Super Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie – but with the objective of capturing the apes that run around each level. You need to get a certain percentage of them to continue, and will need to backtrack as you need to get the right gadgets to capture some of them, which you unlock by proceeding. It’s got a decent semi-in game, separate tutorial for these too, which takes you through a clinical lab setting rather than the time travel adventures of these creatures.

Because yeah, not only did the apes escape, they used a time machine to travel to different points in time, which means that you have to subdue a Tyrannosaurus Rex to get some of them, but go to medieval times in others. It’s a pretty neat idea, with a variety that feels a bit less forced than other games. The cute (for a PS1) graphics help as well, still looking decent enough today.

The unconventional controls are where the game loses modern players a bit. I’ve complained about that before, when games make some unconventional choices, but the decisions made here don’t help. As an early game made specifically for the dualshock controller, the right thumbstick is integral – not to control where you’re looking, but to swing or use the different gadgets you gather – you actually have to aim your net in the right direction. Jump is moved to the R1 button, away from where you’d normally expect it, and everything else feels jumbled. It’s somewhat of an adjustment you have to make, and it doesn’t help you handle the frustrating puzzles like, for example, getting the aforementioned T-Rex dizzy. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Final Thoughts

Ape Escape is an entertaining platformer with a decent variation in puzzles and environments. The controls hold it back, but I can see how enjoyable it would have been and I assume that the sequels would have taken a lot of the frustration out of it – perhaps I should track them down at some point.