SONY PSP REVIEW: APE ESCAPE ACADEMY

Ape Escape Academy is a series of mini-games that offers a limited amount of fun. It doesn't transcend the sum of it part. by StewXX

February 14, 2006 - Ape Escape Academy takes the Ape Escape series and virtually turns it inside out. In this version you're not running around with nets trying to capture a few hundred escaped monkeys, you're actually playing from the perspective of the escapees. You're not actually in the middle of a wild escape chase, instead you play the role of an escapee-in-training as you take various courses designed to test and increase your abilities. These training sessions take on the form of mini-games. There are some 40 in all which range from puzzles games to tests of reflexes and memory.

Specter is looking for new recruits to take over the human-dominated planet. To this end, a training school has been set up featuring the bosses from Ape Escape 2 as the instructors. All of the mini-games are arranged on a tic-tac-toe grid consisting of nine squares. This board is called a class. You will receive a circle on each square for each game that you win. An X will be placed in the square in which you didn't successfully complete. At the end of the nine games your score will be totaled as the CPU counts how many lines you've made with both circles and Xs. If you have enough lines made out of circles, you graduate to the next class. If you don't have enough of these lines, it's back to the beginning. The further you get in the game the more circle lines you will be required to produce. The mini-games also get more complicated.

Mini-games include fairly generic style fare such as bowling, golf, air hockey, soccer, wrestling and dodge ball. Most of the games only require pushing one button but the instructions for the majority of these games are rather vague. Expect to lose quite a few of these games until you accidentally learn how to play them. These games aren't as simple as Wario Wares and do require a slightly deeper tutorial.

Speaking of Wario Wares, there is no doubt that Ape Escape Academy will not escape comparisons to Wario Wares which featured a couple hundred micro-games. While the games in Ape Escape Academy are a little more complex they are nowhere near as ingenious or fun. While they may be easy to play once you understand what's required of you, the one-button system doesn't allow for much control depth. It makes for a good pick-up-and-play game but the lack of depth will certainly relegate this game to rental status. Even the four-player mode is not much more than a novelty.

You can play these games using the wireless system as long as each player has a copy of the game. It's possible to play the game with just one copy as each player crowds around the screen and uses one of the system's button for his or her controller. Needless to say this style of gaming is not going to be in danger of becoming addictive. It's not bad with two players but four is a little much, especially if one of the players has had garlic for lunch. There are only 14 mini-games available for the multi-player modes and only four mini-games to choose from in the wireless mode. Pretty slim pickins' for replay value.

Extra unlockable games are available by collecting medallions which are hidden behind certain squares. Win the game that corresponds to that square and you've got a medallion. If you manage to collect all three medallions in one attempt, then you'll unlock a special parody mode of Hot Shots Golf and Gran Turismo. For added replay value you can go back and replay the mini-games that you've completed but you can't do that the first time through. You have to play all nine games in each class in order to move on.

The monkey character models are easy to recognize as belonging to the Ape Escape series but the overall presentation of the game, at least in terms of audio, animation and cutscenes, are toned down to the point of looking like a counterfeit game. There are very few voiceovers and the general level of sarcastic humor has been all but eliminated. The load times are huge and take longer to load than most mini-games take to play.


Making a game out of mini-games is like making a meal out of crackers and ketchup. It's not always very satisfying. Ape Escape Academy is somewhat void of substance. It should be included as bonus content when the series is released on consoles commemorating some kind of Ape Escape anniversary or milestone. You can monkey around with this game all you want but just make sure you do it within the allotted time of a rental period.

Features:

  • The Ape Escape franchise, made popular on the PlayStation game console and PlayStation2 computer entertainment system expands the series as it debuts a collection of original mini-games.
  • As one of the first party games available on PSP, Ape Escape Academy introduces the franchise with a whole new twist while retaining the fun and frenetic flavor of the Ape Escape franchise.
  • Compete in more than 40 mini-games including hockey, golf, dodge ball, karate and more, with a huge variety of game styles, each overflowing with frantic fun and wacky-humor.
  • Featuring Wi-Fi wireless LAN (Ad Hoc) connectivity, up to four players with a PSP and the game can challenge each other.
  • Unique Tic-Tac-Toe style interface provides distinctive and unique game progression.
  • The Quick Game function allows for easy to pick up and play game mechanic.
  • Players can replay the mini-games they have won, either to practice for the harder versions of that mini-game or to get a high score.
  • More than 300 monkey statues to collect as players go through their academic years.

By StewXX
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Ape Escape Academy (PSP)
3.0
Graphics
Colorful with nicely detailed character models. The backgrounds are rather sparse but what does appear in the game is rendered well.
2.0
Control
With one button controls it's easy to play but it also gets boring very quickly. The dual analog control of the console Ape Escape's is missed.
2.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is catchy but there are few voiceovers and little personality.
1.5
Play Value
Once you've played everything through twice, that's more than enough.
2.5
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: SCEI
Pub: Sony
Release: Jan 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by StewXX

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best