Ape Escape: On the Loose ReviewCain Dornan
Essentially an updated port of an original PlayStation platformer, Ape Escape: On the Loose for the PlayStation Portable offers simplistic, charming and somewhat enjoyable gameplay that returns gamers to an era when games weren’t so complicated. What is on offer is here is essentially a straightforward, simple platforming adventure that will please fans of the series or younger gamers in particular, but unfortunately falls short in offering any true depth that would appeal to most mature gamers.
The game follows the basic storyline of a single cunning monkey, Specter, who has managed to steal a brain helmet that turns him into a genius, complete with high intelligence and super strength. With his newfound power, he has decided to topple humankind from the top of the food chain, and replace humans with monkeys as the key ruler of our planet. In order to achieve this, he has sent a group of cheeky monkeys back in time to various time periods to erase the achievements of humans from history, ultimately ripping control from the hands of humans and placing it into the hairy palms of the devious monkeys.
Luckily, three individuals aren't ready to let the monkeys succeed in their plans. The three friends decide to use a time portal machine to zap Spike (the character you play as) back through the time periods to capture the monkeys with a special time net. This sees you visiting a range of different locations, such as the dinosaur era and the subsequent mysterious era, which sees the construction of interesting rock constructions by early mankind. Each time era that you visit plays host to a collection of levels that are set within that time period, which usually consists of three levels, with each requiring you to capture an increasing number of monkeys for each level as you progress through the game. The variance in each of the different stages does allow for some variation in the gameplay, however, most gamers will find the repetitive nature of the game to be rather boring after only a short period of time.
Throughout your journey, you'll gain various new gadgets to make your monkey hunting a little easier. You'll obtain everything from a lightsaber stick, used for belting monkeys and various other creatures that litter the landscape, through to an underwater net-shooting mechanism, as well as a monkey-locating radar that can be used for locating hidden monkeys. These gadgets gradually unlock a variety of new abilities that aid in breathing some variance into the latter levels.
Outside of the single player adventure, you can also participate in a range of different mini-games, which can be enjoyed in both a single player and multiplayer atmosphere. These mini-games range from snowboarding through to boxing and table tennis, all of which are played with the same cheeky monkeys that you aim to capture in the single player adventure. Although the games are, like the single player campaign, simplistic and offer little depth, they are an enjoyable experience when played in brief bursts.
A negative of Ape Escape: On the Loose is the game's camera, which often proves to be a hindrance to the gameplay when it fails to provide an adequate view of your surroundings. Often you’ll have to halt your progress to wrestle with the annoying camera, which has decided to begin focusing from a confusing and annoying view that prevents you from seeing your surroundings clearly. While you can zoom in to a first-person view, allowing you to see your surroundings from the eyes of your character, this slows down the flow of the game when you have to regularly switch between the two different camera views.
Although based on a PSOne game, the presentation has certainly been improved since the original was released last generation. The graphics and sound have both received a noticeable boost, making full use of the PSP's power. Character models are clear and crisp, as are the various environments that you will roam around in. The voice acting is presented in a lighthearted manner, which sticks true to the game's overall presentation, style and gameplay.
While fans of the series and straightforward platformers in general may enjoy Ape Escape: On the Loose on the PSP, many other gamers may likely tire of the repetitive and basic gameplay after only a few short hours of gameplay. The game is long enough to keep most fans pleased, with the small multiplayer mode adding some additional lifespan if you have a friend who also owns a copy of the game. If you've never held any interest in previous Ape Escape games, you're better off steering clear of this familiar outing.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.