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April 28, 2003
Ape Escape 2 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
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Running around the level.
There's quite an uprising from monkeys in games these days... monkeys used to be innocent animals that swung from trees, ate bananas and acted all cute. But in recent years, they have slowly changed their act; in the Monkey Ball series they ventured into balls and did a whole manner of strange things; Ape Escape took a step sideways and introduced monkeys to Uzis and explosives and their innocence was forever lost; then Timesplitters 2 gave them an armory of weapons and set them loose. Now Ape Escape has moved to the 128-bit era, and taken a bunch of monkeys with it, for another round of monkey-catching goodness. The original Ape Escape was a breath of fresh air for the platform genre on the Playstation, with a unique control design that required the use of a Dual Shock (analog) controller, which gave extra control to the player. While the sequel, Ape Escape 2 hasn't changed drastically from its precursor, this isn't exactly a bad thing...

The lead character in Ape Escape 2 is Hikaru, the bumbling cousin of Spike (the main character in Ape Escape). He is in charge of sending a load of pants and a load of helmets to the monkey park for the professor, but messes up the process and sends both at once. This results in 300 monkeys getting their hands on not only pants, but also helmets which cause them to act strangely. The main bad-guy in the game, a white monkey called Specter, is smarter than the average monkey (not to mention evil), and takes advantage of the situation by sending the monkeys to all corners of the globe. To make up for Hikaru's mistake, you must track down the monkeys around the world, capture them using your monkey-net, and put and end to the mischief that they are causing!

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Closing in quickly.
If you have played the original Ape Escape, you'll be at home instantly with the controls and game mechanics here. Ape Escape 2 looks like your usual 3d free-roaming platformer, but controls somewhat differently. The left analog stick controls Hikaru's movement (as in his direction in which he runs/walks), while the right stick controls the 'gotcha-gadget' that Hikaru has equipped ('Gotcha-gadgets' are inventions of the professor). So if Hikaru has the monkey net equipped, moving the right stick will make Hikaru swing it in that direction. If he has the remote-control car equipped, the right stick will control the remote control car. If he has the slingshot equipped, the right stick will switch the screen to a first-person view and aim the slingshot. There are 11 gadgets in all, and while many of them are taken directly from the first Ape Escape, there are still several new additions there which help out with the many puzzles that litter the stages. And due to the fact that you progressively earn new gadgets, you will need to backtrack to earlier levels once you obtain new gadgets in order to get to unreachable monkeys and locations earlier, which adds significantly to the replay value of the game.

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Looking very cool.
Not only does the game have monkeys to collect, but also gotcha tokens. These are the equivalent of obligatory collectibles in platformers, and are found scattered abundantly around the levels. However, between levels you can take these to the gotcha box; essentially a lucky-dip dispenser, which costs 10 gotcha tokens per prize. Now normally a platformer would reward you here with extra health or lives here, but Ape Escape 2 goes far beyond the call of duty, offering many, many prizes and extras. This includes bonus games, soundtracks, movies, monkey fables, monkey manga (Japanese-style comic), concept artwork, enemy photos, storyboard pictures and a monkepaedia. There is a huge amount of extras and funky things to unlock here, and will easily keep a dedicated gamer going for days here.

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A monkey in armour!
There isn't much really wrong with Ape Escape 2; in the audio and visual departments, it is above standard, and the controls are done well. The only problem I had with the game is that it is a little on the easy side, especially if you have completed Ape Escape and are at home with the control system. But given the number of extras to find and unlock, this doesn't mean you'll be finished with the game once you've played it through once. Also, being a 3d platformer, the game also has some niggly camera issues, which although occur rarely, are exaggerated by the fact that there is no spare analog stick left over to let you manually position the camera.

Graphically Ape Escape 2 is very nice, but not anything earth-shattering. The graphics are bold and very well animated, and some of the monkeys have to be seen to be believed (with everything from ninja monkeys to disco-dancing monkeys with afros!). While the monkeys aren't extremely detailed, there game runs smoothly with many of them on screen, and I'm yet to see any sign of slowdown in the game yet (which is a credit to its creators). The level design varies between different themes and locations, and incorporates the surroundings into the interactivity of the game (buttons are found on most levels which trigger doors and platforms among other things). The unlockable artwork and level ideas also offer an insight into how the levels were originally planned, and add a nice touch.

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For having an anime look and feel to the game, it is very surprising that the developers have gone for giving the good guys overly-stereotypical English accents. While some people complain about the almost nasal pronunciation of some phrases in the game, I feel that it's been done well, and it's good to see that there's speaking throughout the entire game. The music could have had a little more work done on it, and despite the fact that there's so many different tunes for all the levels, they all sound a little on the reconstructed MIDI-file side of things, and it would have been a great touch if the music was a little less mechanical, or even played by actual instruments.

Had I played this game just as a platformer, without any of the extras, I would have been disappointed in Ape Escape 2, given the difficulty level of the game and the standard of its precursor. However, given the sheer wealth of extras, bonuses and mini-games found in the game, the game is forgiven for being a little on the easy side, because you're going to keep on playing and playing and playing some more until you've unlocked every last thing there is. And given the fact that there is an improved ending if you capture all 300 monkeys, there's no reason why you wouldn't go back and finish it completely. It's a crowded 3d platformer market out there for the Playstation 2, but if you don't mind monkeys and lots or extras, you'd be bananas to pass this one by (there had to be at least one stupid monkey-banana reference in this review!).

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSA little on the simple side, but fluid and well animated.
SOUNDNice voiceovers and effects, music is a little midi-esque.
GAMEPLAYIntuitive controls and fun monkey-catching action.
VALUESets an example for extras that we want to see in games!
OVERALLApe Escape 2 is an impressive sequel to a great game, and shows that easy games don't have to have a short lifespan. More extras than you can shake a stick at combined with addictive, humorous gameplay make this game well worth a look if monkeys tickle your fancy.