For years whenever the subject of classic PS1 franchises was brought up, I’ve always touted Ape Escape as one I’d love to see make a comeback. I speak of the puzzle platforming that was Playstation’s answer to Mario 64. I fondly remember the zany apes, and inventive weapons. I’d probably shrug my shoulders and mutter “they don’t make ’em like they used to”.
Well now I can say – in this case at least – I’m glad they don’t.
While waiting for our new internet service and unable to download the new Overwatch update, I decided to fire up Ape Escape 2 on my PS4. I bought it several months back and figured now was the perfect time to dive back in.
As I played through the first few levels, a sense of embarrassment began to rear its ugly head: I was wrong about this franchise.
How did I ever think this was a Mario killer? The lauded dual-analog controls work well enough for catching critters but the movement mechanics are horrendously clunky. The main character is slow and can’t muster up momentum to save his life (which frequently kills him). The double jump is floaty and lackluster, and it’s simply a chore to navigate the 3D space. Every year I find new reasons to respect Mario 64‘s mastery of movement and 2017 is the year of the Ape.
I pressed on, hoping new mechanics would improve the experience, but to no avail. The spinning hula hoop provides a speed burst, but lasts just a short time before it’s back to dullsville.
Since getting around is a challenge, the developers must have took mercy and simplified catching the titular characters. Unfortunately, this removes most of the difficulty and tension. See ape, move to ape, and swing net at ape is the basic gameplay loop. Most of the excitement came from the apes fighting back. Getting within their striking range to catch them was easily the highlight.
Sony mostly abandoned full Ape Escape games by the PS3, only publishing a gimmicky PS Move title. They tweeted a teaser about the year of the monkey in early 2016, but I assume that was about the PS2 on Ps4 games.
I’d still love to see a new Ape Escape, but only if they completely revamp the mechanics to platforming bliss. Shigeru Miyamoto spent the first portion of Mario 64 development exclusively making it fun for Mario to chase a rabbit. Considering the point of Ape Escape, I say that’s a great place to start as well.