Ape Escape 2
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Ubi Soft
Developer
SCEI
Genre
Platformer
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Comic Mischief, Mild Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Fun gadgets and gameplay
• Monkeys are pretty funny
• Familiar voice cast

The Bad

• Graphics could be better
• Too easy
• Some pretty lame prizes to be earned

 
Grade
B

The original Ape Escape managed to make full use of the Dual Shock controller for the Playstation by making players use both analog sticks to control the action. Even with this innovative element, the original game ended up a sleeper hit in the platformer genre. Subsequently, a semi-sequel was released in Japan in 2001 and Sony developed a true sequel in 2002. Rather than trying to bring it to North America themselves, Sony let Ubi Soft pick up the localization, allowing North America to enjoy their first PS2 taste of monkey-catching action.

This time around, players take on the role of Jimmy, who has accidentally teleported both a shipment of pants and monkey helmets (which make the monkeys a lot smarter) at the same time. This misstep causes the shipment to rained down on the nearby monkeys and Specter, the main badguy from the first game, returns to command them. With the aid of Natalie and later on the Professor, Jimmy visits a variety of themed locations to recapture the monkeys. On occasion, he must face one of Specter's Power Ranger-like boss monkeys. Since Jimmy only has a limited number of moves all his own (like jumping), he must depend on the gadgets he's given throughout the game to gain access and capture the 300 monkeys of Ape Escape 2.

To use gadgets, one must equip them on the four face buttons, not unlike as seen in The Legend of Zelda. While players run around with the Left Analog stick, they use the gadgets with the Right stick. When using the Stun Stick or Monkey Net, the controls seem straightforward, but when you get to use the Remote Control Car, use of the dual sticks feels well handled. To jump, either use the R1 or R2 Buttons. The L1 Button brings the camera around behind Jimmy and the L2 Button is used to go into a First Person Look mode.

During the game, Jimmy has five cookies, which slowly become depleted as he takes damage. Initially, you only need fear physical attacks from the monkeys or an assortment of small yet annoying monsters. Later on, both the monkeys and monsters use projectiles, including bombs, fire or bullets, forcing you to be more evasive. Once Jimmy runs out of cookies, he loses a jacket (which is the game's equivalent of a life).

All of the gadgets will have their immediate use when you're first given them, but you'll find that the further along you get, the more you'll need to rely on older gadgets to capture all the monkeys. Except for a handful of new gadgets, including the Banana-rang and Water Cannon, most of your equipment is the same as from the original game. If you've played the first Ape Escape, you'll immediately be familiar with the Slingshot, Remote Control Car and Stun Stick. Some gadgets, like the Monkey Radar and especially the Monkey Net, are far more essential than others, but getting used to the full compliment is required to finish most locations.

The levels are a mixture of casual platforming and environmental puzzles where some monkeys are out in the open, while others are hiding and require some effort to locate. The goal of each level is to capture a minimum number of monkeys, and once you do that, you're teleported back to the game's hub. At the hub, players have the option to spend the gold they collect on a vending machine that randomly spits out items, ranging from useful (cookies, jackets) to cool (mini-games like soccer and a rhythm game) to the downright mundane (a series of Monkey Fables and comicbooks that just serve as filler). Often, you'll need to get another gadget to catch the last monkeys in previous stages, although there are times where you can "catch them all" if it weren't for the premature ejection.

I couldn't help but include the Pokemon catch-phrase as the English voicecast for the game includes the voices of Ash and Misty in the roles of Jimmy and Natalie. Toss in the Pikachu-like Pipotchi and some Pokemon fans may feel at least a degree of deja vu when playing this title. The music and sound effects are adequate in comparison to the quality voice work and the audio package as a whole works with the more kid-friendly theme that the sequel has taken.

Visually, Ape Escape 2 puts on a more scaled-back look to its graphic style. The game has large locations that don't really sport a large degree of detail, be it polygon count or the liberal use of textures and lighting. In comparison to other platformers like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, Ape Escape 2 is a weak visual presentation that looks like it was developed before the launch of the console. But, if you can look past the technical aspects, you'll find a lot of charm and personality, especially in the numerous monkeys you have to chase down. Everything is functional and the game's look works well enough to keep from being a distraction, especially when you're chasing down an ape that's spent the last minute spanking its rump in your general direction.

Before too long, it'll be quite apparent that the bulk of Ape Escape 2 is aimed at a younger (10-13 year old) crowd than some of the other platformers for the PS2. The game is rarely difficult, even in the boss fights, where a logical approach to simple attack patterns will make most passable with little extra effort.

It's a shame that Ape Escape 2 is so easy and that there are so few new gadgets as the game is quite fun. With some more decent minigames (in place of the mundane Monkey Fables) and a little more challenge, I would recommend this to anyone. As it is, I can really only suggest it for younger gamers or as a rental for those who enjoyed the first title. (Oh, and before you email complaining, we do know that Apes and Monkeys are different. Send your complaints to Ubi Soft or SCEI as they refer to just about everything as Monkey-This or Monkey-That.)

- - Kinderfeld

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