Sometimes sequels can either leave a gamer never wanting to see another title in the series ever again, or leave them wanting more. Ape Escape falls into the latter category. The first game on PS one was a fantastic concept that truly brought the best from the dual analog sticks (although it can be argued that often-overlooked PS one gem, Ore no Ryouri, does it better). The PlayStation 2 "update", Pipo Saru 2001, was a stop gap until the full sequel, Ape Escape 2, finally arrived. It added to the brilliance of the original with an even bigger range of weapons and locations. It also built upon the original gameís concept and really felt like the conclusion of the series in many ways.
So now, the third in the series is here, and it has a lot to live up to.
From the moment the game starts up the player feels right at home. From the catchy theme tune to the basic layout, this time round the game feels bigger and better than ever. There is now a choice of either a male or female lead character, although it doesnít matter who`s chosen, as they both seem very similar in equipment and movement. The premise this time round is that Spectre has taken over TV by installing transmitters all around the globe; it`s up to our daring heroes to stop the Simian bilge-fest taking place. From the main hub, they are then transported to each area to collect a set number of Apes in all their various guises.
And what guises they have.
Ever the stars of the show, the Apes have excelled themselves this time. Whether they are dressed up as Jason from Friday the 13th, ninjas, monks, gangsters or ghosts, they provide much laughter. Watching an Ape holding onto a pole while a violent gust of wind blows off his clothes, or the clear homage to movies such as Spiderman and Psycho, they provide a great deal of humour in every level.
While the first and second games could be accused of being too easy, Ape Escape 3 doesnít let the player off quite so lightly. Robots (both flying & ground-based) will look to stop the player in their tracks. Apes will attack in hydraulic elephants, exo-skeleton suits which spin to inflict serious damage and, not content with those, they`ll also adopt weapons such as U.F.O.`s, machine guns and the like. In a final twist, they can now steal either the net or whacking stick normally used to capture them. Itís a nice twist which makes them even more tricky than before. Instead of being passive victims, the apes can turn the tables very quickly.
Luckily, along with the gadgets at the players disposal (hula hoop, catapult and remote controlled car), each character is now given a series of specials. Pressing R1 and R2 together when the green power bar along the top of the health bar is full gives each character 30 seconds of super-powers. By collecting green power bulbs, dropped by smashed enemy robots and handily-placed crates, the time limit on these specials can also be topped up and extended. From an exotic Aladdin homage, (that summons a genie who makes every monkey in the area dance to a funky tune while you sneak up and capture them), to the ninja warrior (who is needed for rope climbing and wall walking), they all serve a purpose and soon become very welcome additions to the gameplay.
The levels themselves are massive and are jam-packed with incident. Whether itís a spa/sauna retreat with steam rooms which then lead onto an amusement park, complete with a white water ride (with apes hanging from the teeth of a giant T-rex in the background), or the breathtaking Aeroplane level, where you have to traverse constantly-moving planes of different kinds, the enjoyment factor is immense. The only blot on the otherwise superb level design appears on the latter stages, where "leap-of-faith"-style platforms make an unwelcome return, and could put off gamers with less patience.
For all the positives, there are some slight negatives. The camera can still be iffy in places although pressing L1 will always centre the camera behind your character. It`s possible to manually adjust it by pressing any of the d-pads arrows as well but it still feels overly clumsy, and frequently the player still finds their view compromised. The game is also very short. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but a fairly gifted player will clock this in 6-7 hours no problem. On the plus side, a good few unlockables (including Mesal Gear Solid, the Solid Snake tie-in) are available once you finish the game, not to mention more costumes.
However, the main game, even in it`s short life, will provide enough entertainment for those who love this quirky, unique series for what it is: unabashed fun.