PlayStation Move Ape Escape: Let’s monkey around

July 27, 2011

When thinking of Sony’s monkey-based Ape Escape series, ne normally pictures open environments, tons of monkeys to capture and 3D platforming. With the Move, Ape Escape tries to forgo the platforming part, as it ventures into the not-as-open-or-free world of rail shooters.

The goal in PlayStation Move Ape Escape is the same as all the other games: catch tons of monkeys and stop the big bad monkey named Spencer. Armed with a multi-tool that swaps between the player’s gadgets (and coincidentally looks just like a Move remote), you travel through time tracking Spencer down through 15 levels of not-quite-fast-paced monkey-catching action. Unlike past games, your selection of gadgets is limited to just a catching net, a slingshot and an oversized paper fan of the “smack monkeys silly” variety, along with a super vacuum (which is basically a super net only usable for a limited time) and a banana gun that turns enemies or destructible objects on screen into, well, bananas.

Every stage is segmented into capture mode, in which movement stops entirely and monkeys rush you to be caught, and shooting mode, when the camera auto-scrolls through the stage to the next spot (where you’ll repeat capture mode). The transition between these two modes tends to be somewhat slow, as well as the shooting mode being particularly slow-paced. You’re actually limited to just three gadgets in each mode, with capture only having the net, slingshot and vacuum and shooting using the slingshot, fan and banana gun. Capture mode has you annoy, then catch, monkeys by pestering them with the slingshot. When they charge at the player, that’s when it’s time to swing the net. You’ll get the occasional monkey that guards or attacks in more ways than just rushing at you, but these aren’t as common. Shooting mode has you slowly moving through the level, shooting at enemies with the slingshot are hitting them with the fan if they get too close. This is repeated through the stage until you reach Spencer and capture him in that particular level.

The controls for most of the tools work fine, particularly the fan and slingshot, though the former is just because the controls just involve flailing the remote. The aiming with the slingshot is superb, but there’s one dubious design choice with charge shots involving extending your arm forward, pressing two buttons on the Move remote at the same time and then retracting your arm. Another fuzzy control option involves using the face buttons on the move remote itself to pan the camera left and right, which would be better if mapped onto the Move’s navigation controller.

Outside of these primary stages, the game also tacks in some monkey-filled mini-games to distract you from the linear progression on the stages. These range from a Mario Kart Double Dash!!-esque obstacle course, where one player shoots obstacles away while the other player struggles with awful vehicle controls, to sniping stages, where you fire at tons of monkeys on a timer. There’s no real incentive to play the mini-games, or to keep playing them afterward unless you like beating your own score, since there aren’t even trophies for playing.

PlayStation Move Ape Escape is a particular love-it-or-hate-it game based on the series alone. If you’re a longtime Ape Escape fan, a fan of arcade-style games where improving your own score is the name of the game, or just looking a new take on rail shooters, it may be worth a shot. If you can stomach some awful long times and weird design choices, it’s a fun game to play with friends in a party setting, but it’s pretty cut-and-dry for someone looking for extensive single-player experience.

Pros: Party fun, vibrant Ape Escape setting
Cons: Doesn’t quite get the controls right

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.