APE ESCAPE / Sony / Playstation

Sony never hit upon that killer mascot platformer that could stand on par with the best Mario and Sonic games, but they did make some good stuff while they were throwing ideas at the wall. The Ape Escape franchise is arguably the best of their in-house efforts. It mixes up some almost Metal Gear-like stealth and item usage with the standard 3D platformer fare, and was also one of the first games to really get robust use out of the DualShock.

The backdrop is that monkeys somehow get ahold of intelligence helmets, and a particularly nasty one named Specter rallies them into an army. He then gets ahold of a time machine and sends his monkey army back to establish a world WHERE APES EVOLVED FROM MAN!!?!?!!! The incredibly irresponsible scientist who invented all this stuff then sends you, some random neighborhood Japanime kid, back in time after them with a variety of wacky gadgets to catch them.

The format is basically that of a collect-a-thon platformer, but divvied up into a bunch of small levels that you can return to at any time. New gadgets are doled out to you slowly as you go, so you'll need to return to completed levels to get previously unreachable monkeys and the inevitable bonus coins to collect. There's a big emphasis on using the right analog stick for more than just the camera control it had previously been relegated to in most other games. Most of the gadgets are wielded with the stick instead of pressing a button, and there's a number of vehicles to pilot that require you to use both sticks in tandem to steer.

And that's the game's only real shortcoming, but it's a doozy that hasn't aged well -- control with some of the gadgets (and ALL of the vehicles) can be maddeningly finicky and imprecise at times. The vehicles in particular are a real butt, the game just tosses you into these incredibly unfamiliar and unintuitive control schemes with no help and expects you to flail around for 10 or 15 minutes until you figure it out on your own. A sometimes wild camera that often drifts to unhelpful angles and often has to be wrestled with by stopping movement and using the D-pad to slowly swing it around also doesn't help the game in this department.

This first entry is charming in its goofy way and certainly isn't bad to play, but later entries in the series would refine the controls and camera be a little more enjoyable to play.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video