Imagine a zoo full of monkeys, playing around, eating bananas, and making monkey screeches. Then imagine that a truck runs into the wall, breaking it down. The monkeys see their chance at freedom, so they scamper through the wall. People start screaming, monkeys jumping all around, clinging to people, causing havoc. Someone has to catch all those screaming monkeys. In Ape Escape 3, that’s your job.
You play as Kei or Yumi, a brother and sister team who are out to catch the monkeys that are under the control of the evil Specter. Specter has teamed up with the scientist Dr. Tomoki to take over the world. He plans on doing this by taking over all of the TV stations and putting on incredibly boring shows. These shows are so bad and boring that it causes the weak-minded to turn into mindless couch potatoes. You’d almost think that they were watching Lifetime.
The graphics in AE3 aren’t great, but they do the job. The main characters aren’t made of that many polygons, but they look respectable. When they hold a gadget, you can visibly see the gadget in their hand. The monkeys have even less polygons, but it gives them a cartoonish look to them, especially with the Monkey Helmets with a flashing light on their heads. This actually adds a bit to the playful feel of the game.
Some of the characters are textured, but the monkeys aren’t. While the textures on the characters are simple, they do add a lot to the graphics. They help to give the main character more definition. The monkeys don’t really have many textures on them, but they do have some variety to them. Some hold machine guns and have shades, while others have boxing gloves. They are a bit simple though, and there isn’t that much variety in the enemies.
Some of the lighting effects are used during the game are almost something you’d see from Soul Calibur. Swinging the bat in a circle shows a long trail, while swinging the sword in Fantasy Knight mode gives off a flash of lightning. Some of the robots swing mallets that leave a shock wave from the hit. These particle effects are a bit better than you’d expect for a title like this.
One of the nice things about the game is the variety of stages. Each time you get a new gadget or new morphing form, you go into a training area that is like a simplified cyberspace area. Each of the shows has a different theme. The monkeys even are dressed appropriately for the theme. For example, in the Wild West area, the monkeys are dressed up like cowboys. In a forest theme, one of the monkeys is dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. The changes to each stage help the game from becoming boring.
Music is always upbeat and playful in AE3, but it changes for each area that you play in. The castle has a majestic feeling to it, while being in a moon area switches the game to a sci-fi mood. Having these different themes separates each area from one another.
Some of the voices are well done. Specter sounds like a maniacal bad guy…er…monkey with a high-pitched voice. Kei and Yumi sound like kids, although they sound a bit younger than they should be. Yet, the voice acting is almost like something from a dubbed anime series. Aki, the scientist who invents your gadgets sounds a bit airheaded. Dr. Tomoki has a bit of a deep voice, so you don’t expect it for a scientific character. It does add some charm to the game, but the voices are a bit off.
The game uses generic sound effects for most of the game. Collecting coins have a similar “ding” used in other games, and breaking creates or boxes sounds like breaking boxes sounds like you’d expect it to.
The controls take a bit of getting used to since it doesn’t control like a typical third-person action game where the left analog stick controls the movement and the right stick controls direction. The left analog stick does control movement, but the right analog stick controls the attack. The face buttons select which gadget to use, and the Select button goes to the Gadget Screen to assign the gadgets to the face buttons. The R1 and R2 buttons jump and hitting both together performs a Morph Jump. The L1 button centers the camera with the D-pad moving the camera.
With a game like this, the camera needs to move well with the on-screen character. AE3 does this well most of the time. However, moving quickly can cause the camera to lag behind or get stuck behind something in the environment. The D-pad controls don’t help either because they aren’t convenient to get to while moving and don’t respond very quickly.
Also, attacking with the right analog stick can be tricky. You can attack in any direction, but sometimes it feels like you move to attack in a certain direction and your character attacks in a different direction. It does get easier, but it also takes a bit of an adjustment.
With the title Ape Escape 3 might make you think that the game was about chasing monkeys around and capturing them. While this is a major portion of the game, AE3 is a platforming game at heart. Some of the puzzles involve some tricky double-jumping, while others use some of the gadgets Aki invents for you or the morph modes you can change into. Each level is completed when a specific number of monkeys are cleared from a stage.
AE3 has several gadgets to assist you to capture the monkeys. The main gadget you have in AE3 is the Monkey Net. With this gadget, Kei and Yumi are able to sweep up a monkey and have it sent on its merry way. The Monkey Radar helps you discover where monkeys are hidden within a level and get information about them, such as how fast and strong they are. Bonking a monkey with a Stun Club stuns a monkey temporarily, allowing you to capture it easier. The Super Hoop allows you to travel short distances quickly and bounce off of enemies and stun or destroy them. The Slingback Shooter is a slingshot that gives you a long-distance attack. The Water Net allows you to travel through water areas and capture swimming monkeys. Other gadgets become available along the way. None of these gadgets feel obsolete throughout the game. While you will have your own personal favorites to use through the game, all of them are useful instead of being helpful for only a single puzzle and then becoming useless.
Aki also invents a device that allows you to morph into eight different, more powerful characters. These characters can help you mow down enemies quicker or reach other areas that were previously unavailable. Fantasy Knight’s shield prevents fire damage. Wild West Kid has a much quicker shot to take care of enemies faster. Some of these morph forms are useful for certain puzzles and nothing else, while others you can use throughout the entire game. Each of the forms feels completely unique though. These morph forms require you to gather Mega-energy to fill your Morph Gauge. Once your Morph Gauge is full you can transform for a limited amount of time.
Your life bar is indicated by cookies. If you lose all of your cookies you lose a jacket. If you lose all your jackets, then the game is over. You can purchase cookies and jackets by collecting Gotcha Coins throughout the levels.
The stages are all different because of the TV station takeover story. AE3 injects a lot of humor into these games. You can’t help but to laugh at titles like “A Fistful of Bananas,” “Monday the 16th – Nightmare on Ape Street,” and “Saru-mon’s Immobile Castle.” Even some humor comes in when you are able to walk up to cameras and film the monkeys in certain scenes. You can then watch these scenes in the Simian Cinema Theater.
You also get some vehicles to travel around in. For instance, a high-performance race car helps you speed around and bump off monkey drivers from the track. A robot is available to destroy other robots and travel distances faster. However, controlling these vehicles isn’t as smooth or intuitive as it should be and are a major disappointment.
Some people might feel that the game is too easy, but with this game targeted towards younger players, the challenge is about right. The game is a lot of fun, and you’ll find yourself playing it more than what you probably thought you wanted.AE3 doesn’t include any multi-player, so don’t expect to go monkey hunting with a friend. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be getting a lot out of the game. Just playing the game through once will give you about a 50% completion score. You have to go back into the levels you have previously played to capture the remaining monkeys in each level. Not only that, but there are lots of items to purchase in the shops with the Gotcha Coins. While the graphics and sound aren’t quite up to the standard of other PS2 games, they do the job. However, the gameplay is what really shines. The action sequences combined with the platforming elements really create a unique experience, especially with the different Morph modes and Gotcha Gadgets. The game is a lot of fun and provides a lot of variety so the game doesn’t get too repetitive. Fans of platformers or the Ape Escape series should look into this game.