Gameplay, Story and Value:
Ape Escape is, for all intents and purposes, a huge tech demo for Sony’s brand new dual shock controller. While it’s a concept taken for granted nowadays, having a game controller with two joysticks was pretty groundbreaking back then, and it would set a trend that would last for years to come. What’s especially interesting, however, isn’t that this was one of the first games to mandate the use of a Dual Shock controller, but how it decided that controller should be used.
The core concept of Ape Escape is simple. Ape’s have… escaped… and you’re tasked with capturing them with your time net (because the apes are from the future, obviously). Unique here, is that the face buttons on the controller are used to switch between gadgets, while the right thumbstick is actually used for attack. You’ll swing your net or baton in whatever direction your flick the joystick, allowing for a surprising amount of (admittedly finicky) control over how you attack.
Moreover, the game finds all kinds of ways to showcase different uses for having dual analogue sticks, such as using them in tandem to row a boat, or spinning one rapidly to power up a hula hoop. It’s all interesting to see, and handles okay enough, but ultimately there’s a reason that most games have settled on the control scheme we still see today. Aiming your attacks can difficult, controlling the camera is still a pain without a stick dedicated to it, and as a platformer it’s only just average.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Between it’s handling and the quality of its visuals, Ape Escape sets itself apart from most 3D platforms on Sony’s console. Sure, it certainly looks like you’d expect a game from the 32-bit era to look, but there’s a certain level of polish here that most gamers from the back half of the 90’s would normally only expect to find on the N64. Environments are varied, colors pop with vibrancy, and models are all well animated and full of personality. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I was playing a platformer that “would have been better on a Nintendo console”
The music was fun but forgettable, though perfectly suited to the game. Sound effects were all great and while the voice acting certainly won’t be winning any awards, it was definitely nice to have.
As with most collection-based platformers, I couldn’t bring myself to play this one for more that a few days. It’s like someone took the part from Super Mario 64 where you have to catch that rabbit, and stretched it into an entire game: fun at first, grows tiresome quickly. That said, I found it to be a pretty enjoyable experience for what it was, even if it didn’t particularly resonate with me, and I really have to give it credit for being of such good quality.