aka Sarugetchu P! in Japan.
If you think back to the original Playstation one of the stand out titles was Ape Escape. It was a monkey hunting platformer that made clever use of the Dual Shock analog sticks. Instead of pressing a button to use a tool you would swing the right analog stick. A simple, but ingenious control scheme. Since the original Ape Escape encouraged gamers to pick up dual shock controllers, a remake of Ape Escape for the PSP should sell PSPs right?
The PSP isn’t exactly equipped like a PS2 controller. It’s missing an entire analog stick, which means the entire control scheme had to be redone. Ape Escape: On the Loose would pretty much have to revert to a simpler control set up where you would press a button to use one of the gadgets. The problem is you can only swing in a downward direction with the monkey catching time net. Without a horizontal swing it becomes more difficult to sneak up on an unsuspecting simian. When you use the RC car you can see how the control scheme falls apart. First you have to press down the button to call the car to your side. Since you don’t have an analog stick you’re forced to use the D-pad to drive the car. The control doesn’t work out when you’re trying to make turns or when you need to quickly evade an obstacle. Another thing is running around while controlling the car is near impossible. Unless you place the PSP on a table and move both of your hands on the left side of the system. The new control scheme takes some time to get used to, if you’ve played the original game.
Minus the control scheme the game is pretty much like the same Ape Escape you know and love. You start out in the Time Station where you can pick a time period to chase monkeys in. There are a bunch of different places to go that range from the age of the dinosaurs to modern times. Catching a fixed number of monkeys allows you access to the next time period and sometimes a new toy to play with. Monkeys just aren’t going to sit around waiting for the hero, Spike, to catch them. They’ll run around, swing their fists in the air and even throw banana peels at you. More intelligent apes really fight back. They might jump into spaceships, fire at you with machine guns and even ride dinosaurs. In away Ape Escape plays like monkey hide and seek.
Spike has a bunch of tools to help him achieve his mission. First and fore most is his trusty time net that you’ll have to use to actually capture a monkey. To calm the more wild black pants wearing monkeys you will need to use the stun baton to freeze them for a second. Then you can draw your net and go for the catch. A really useful tool is the sky flyer. When you use this Spike essentially has a triple jump, if you active the sky flyer after a double jump. The sky flyer also allows you to slowly float back to earth and cross large chasms. If you plan to find all two hundred plus monkeys you’ll have to use the monkey radar. This neat tool allows you to spot monkeys secretly hiding.
Besides hidden chimps there are treasured specter coins to be found in the levels. These elusive items can allow you to play some of the all new PSP mini games. The first game you will unlock is Snow Kidz racing. This game is a downhill snowboard racing game. Each player has a boost meter that increases when you pick up Nitro bananas or land tricks. Specter Boxing has you play as a Pipo Saru in a boxing ring. You’ll throw punches until one monkey is knocked out. For this game you can select one of the many monkeys you’ve captured to play as. When you collect 30 coins you’ll be able to play the boss obstacle course Jake Attacks with another player. In this game one person will be Spike and another player his rival, Jake. The two will have to run an obstacle course that involved jumping over pits, swimming and avoiding traps to see who can make it to the end first. The final game to unlock is Ape Ping Pong. This is a fast paced game where you’ll knock a ping pong ball back and forth until someone scores ten points. With each successive hit you’ll power up your smash gauge, that can be used to slam the ball at an opposing monkey. Each of the mini games has full ad hoc wi-fi support. Having two player support is a definite plus. Specter Boxing and Ape Ping Pong with two people is a blast.
Presentation wise Ape Escape suffers. Compared to most handheld games Ape Escape looks OK, mainly because handheld gamers have been accustomed to 2D games for so long. However, when you look at this and look at Ridge Racer it just doesn’t stand in comparison. Ape Escape: On the Loose really looks like a first generation 3D title. The polygon count is low and the backgrounds look flat. The game also suffers from a huge number of graphic glitches, more than even the original game had. At times the camera will move at a weird angle and Spike can "look through" a wall. Worse off the game half renders some backgrounds. So you’ll see a jagged wall with a hole in it or a floating tree. Even stranger is that Spike can literally hit monkeys and catch them through a wall. Did anyone even test this game out before shipping? The in game music is really simplistic, almost pre Playstation era simplistic. The songs are really generic and most players will opt to play this with the volume off. On the plus side there is some voice acting, which is good for a handheld game.
Besides the control change, Ape Escape: On the Loose is pretty much the same Ape Escape with longer loading times. When you boot the game up it loads, when you get to the level select there is another period of loading. After selecting a level it has to load a screen telling you how many monkeys are available to catch and then it will finally load a level. Were talking a minute or two of loading before even playing the game. In between levels there is more loading as you move from zone to zone. This is bound to test your patience and the battery life of your PSP.
Ape Escape: On the Loose has it’s fair share of problems. Some of which take away from the experience of what was a great platformer. Although, there is still enough good about the game to warrant a purchase. There are plenty of places to explore, monkeys to catch and secrets to find. You can easily spend twenty plus hours just tracking monkeys down. Wireless multiplayer adds to replay value too. It’s not perfect, but for a launch title it’s not bad either.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
Some Japanese menus and text are a minor problem that shouldn’t distract players from enjoying the game.
This game is already in the US and was part of the PSP launch.
+ Pros: A portable version of one of the best PS1 platfomers.
- Cons: Slipshod control, graphical glitches and long loading times puts this game far away from perfection.
Overall: The original Ape Escape is classic. The PSP "remake" Ape Escape: On the Loose is really for people who haven’t experienced any Ape Escape game or platformer for the past four years.
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