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SummaryA lot of fun, and what's wrong with that?
The GoodThis game was one of the PS2's greatest platformers when released. Although it's now a little dated, it retains it's unique charm and, more importantly, sense of sheer fun, years after it lit up my life. So what makes this game so likable? First, the control system. You run around with the left stick, with jumping on R1. So far, so humdrum, but the fun comes with the right stick, which uses the gadget you're holding. First of all, the system is easy to use. Gadgets can be mapped to a 'shape' button or selected via the pause menu, which is actually less annoying than it sounds. But it's the innovative control methods that really shine. If you're using a catapult, pull back the right stick, aim and release it to fire. If you're using a hula hoop, moving the stick in a circle will create a forcefield around your character. And if you're using the net, simply move the stick in the direction you want the net to swing. It's really very simple, even if most of the gadgets are borrowed from the original. The second thing to like is the presentation. The characters are full of personality, even if they ultimately caricatures like the bumbling professors and the moody teenager. The monkeys themselves are very likable, especially when they dress up for various stages, like disco-dancing, afro-wearing monkeys in the 70s themed stage. All the monkeys have a name, and a description. Half the monkeys are pop culture references, from Star Wars to early 90s dance group Snap. And there's a real joy to discovering a monkey named after you. The levels are also well presented, with the graphics as well as impressing visually also having a unique charm about them, a charm also found in titles like Beyond Good and Evil. It's this style and sense of fun that make Ape Escape 2 so enjoyable. The music is also notable for actually being quite good, unlike so many of this game's peers. Mention should also be given to the unlockable extras. By spending coins, you can unlock everything from comic book strips featuring the characters to 'Monkey Fables', little stories which are often twisted versions of our traditional fairy tales. How does Monkerella sound? But the real treat are the minigames. It's often said that if released on budget, the minigames from the first Ape Escape would count as games in themselves. This statement applies equally to this sequel. The first game, Dance Monkey Dance, is a fun little rhythm action game which suffers from mildly unresponsive controls, but benefits from a sense of humour and some surprisingly good music. The third game, Monkey Climber, is certainly a challenge, as you work your way through a series of ropes with the most confusing control system I've ever seen. But the difficulty never feels unfair, you always know you can master it. The real treat, however, is Monkey Football. This game is supreme fun. Picking a team from the monkey's you've caught in the main game, players participate in the only football game I've ever enjoyed. The controls are again simple, with passing on the 'shape' buttons, tackling/kicking on the right stick and even chipping and sprinting on the shoulder buttons. The whole experience is of tip top quality, from the goal celebrations to the intricate little heading and bicycle kick animations. You can even play with different balls, including a bomb and a beach ball! Monkey Football will keep you playing long after all those monkeys have been rounded up. And that's quite a compliment.
The BadFirst of all, the boss battles are too easy. Although, they have a nice, retro feel about them with predictable patterns and big glowing weak spots, this system becomes overfamiliar, with the final boss in particular a real letdown, especially considering how good bosses are in games like Ratchet and Clank. Also, the new gadgets are a real letdown. All the innovation behind the controls of the new gizmos - to use the magnet or the water sprayer, just point the right stick in the right place. How hard would it have been to create some more interesting gadgets, with interesting control methods? Another gadget problem is that many, notably the aformentioned water sprayer, are only usuable once in a while. And it's always obvious. Is there a fire blocking your path? Use the water sprayer. A small hole next to a switch? The RC car. These incredibly unchallenging puzzles point out how limited some of the gadgets are, as each has only one specific use. However, another problem is quite the opposite. The magnet has a whole range of uses. It can push and pull metal blocks. It can strip enemies of their defensive armour. It can even attach the player to moving metal blocks, as they transport you across otherwise impassable gaps. And it's here that problems arise. Although fun at first, these metal blocks become really quite tiresome, as they repeat constantly towards the end of the game. This would be excusable if they represented any sort of challenge, but all you have to do is move the right stick and hold it. In the final level, there are entire sections composed of just this, and it's incredibly dull, and actually quite insulting to the player. My final point is the lack of innovation. Everything this game counts as unique, from the minigames to the gadgets, has been done before in the first Ape Escape. Now this is fine, but I personally was expecting a real improvement - especially considering that Sony claimed we weren't receiving Ape Escape 2001 because they were working on a fantastic sequel. Yes, the game is good, but was it worth the wait?