Ape Escape Academy ReviewCain Dornan
The Ape Escape monkeys have had quite a ball on the Playstation 2, spawning a number of varying the sequels that had us performing a variety of different activities. While the games were rather simplistic, their targeted audience of the younger crowd undeniably loved the fun, pick-up-and-play gameplay style that involved no overly difficult sequences to allow them to progress through the game without any hindering difficulties. While the series has never been overly fantastic in their presentation and execution, each successive title in the series has offered an interesting gameplay style that managed to keep the player immersed for a reasonable amount of time.
Unsurprisingly, the series has now made the jump onto Sonys latest system, the Playstation Portable. In this outing, however, you wont see the monkeys in a platform or adventure-based setting. Rather, the developer has opted to produce a simplistic yet catchy game that revolves solely around short, quick-paced mini games. While the game is perfect for a quick pick-up-and-play affair, the amount of lifetime offered is somewhat questioning, as Ape Escape Academy could certainly offer a large collection of different mini games.
The immediately noticeable problem with Ape Escape Academy is the limited variety of modes available. Including the multiplayer mode, you are offered a total of three gameplay modes, which feels somewhat lacking when comparing it to the recent flow of PSP titles that have passed through our hands. When considering that two of the modes are essentially the same in that one mode allows you to unlock further mini games while the other hosts the ability to choose whichever mini game that you have unlocked to play, its safe to say that the game is lacking somewhat considerably in variety. While a large collection of different mini games would have made such a small number of modes welcomed, the simple fact is that the game simply doesnt have a sufficient collection of games.
The main mode in Ape Escape Academy is the Academy mode, which involves a series of levels that are presented in a school-like fashion. Beginning in the Junior year levels, you are required to graduate through the years while being faced with a gradually increasing level of difficulty. To pass a year level, you are required to complete nine mini game events, which are presented in a Naught and Crosses fashion that requires you to successfully complete three games in a straight line to pass. As the difficulty of the mini games ramp up, you will be required to complete more and more rows, which can prove to be somewhat difficult when each mini game is selected at random, resulting in failing a single mini game potentially ruining your chances of completing the year level.
The Minigame Collection mode, as you may have guessed, allows you to browse through your collection of mini games in which you have unlocked. Unlocking a mini game is as simple as playing it in the Academy mode. While the mode does not offer a unique purpose, it is a welcomed mode that allows you to choose your favourite games to enjoy, or to brush-up on your skills with the more difficult games.
There is also the Showcase mode, which presents to you your collection of figurines that you have located in Academy mode. Since this mode has no gameplay offering, the mode solely serves as an information point for those who enjoy going to the extreme lengths of gaining everything in a game.
For those of us who enjoy a good multiplayer bash, Ape Escape Academy does include a simple multiplayer mode, which allows you to compete with your friends over the Playstation Portables wireless LAN capabilities. While the mode does not include anything absent from the single player portions of the game, it does provide an alternative option for those who rather play multiplayer than single player.
With a game focused exclusively on mini games, one would expect a large collection of unique, enjoyable and addictive games to enjoy. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. A large majority of the mini games heavily resemble those that are found in other franchises, namely the WarioWare and Mario Party series. In addition, the majority of mini games available are rather bland and frustrating, with many offering no enjoyment at all. One of these frustrating mini games includes a juggle game. Since you are provided with virtually no instructions on how to successfully juggle, itll take multiple attempts to finally discover how to juggle. Such games can quickly dampen the potentially enjoyable experience.
On the visual side, Ape Escape Academy offers the same simple and colourful art style that was used in its Playstation 2 counterparts. Characters consist of simplistic, cartoon-like polygons that can often be quite bland. Environment detail is also kept to a minimum, with a large majority of games consisting of nothing but bland textures. The sound department is also quite simplistic, offering the similar soundtrack to that used in previous monkey-filled outings.
While the younger crowd may enjoy Ape Escape Academy for a short while, the inevitable level of boredom with the repetitive and uninspired title results in the game being a short lived experience. Unfortunately, Sony has let the ball drop with their latest addition to the monkey franchise, which is a sure disappointment for fans of the series.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.