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Ape Escape

Simple simian.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

The Ape Escape series has been in mothballs since 2005, but it's not much of a surprise to see it dusted off for PlayStation Move given its history of showcasing new Sony technology. The original game, released in 1999, was the first to demand use of the then-fresh DualShock controller, thus ushering in the glorious two-stick era that has served us so well. Rowing boats, steering an RC car or just moving while swishing a net around, it illustrated the control advantages of the PlayStation's pricey new peripheral.

It makes sense, then, that Sony would want to revive the series to help us see the hidden depths of the Move controller, but if that was the intention, it's backfired badly. The Ape Escape of 2011 is a paper-thin exercise in frustration and under-achievement that would struggle to pass muster as a Wii launch title.

Rather than utilise the Move navigation controller and continue the series' platforming heritage, we instead get a simple on-rails shooting gallery in which you point and click frantically at targets. You have just five gadgets to play with, and must use them to reach the end of 15 short stages of monkey-spanking action while collecting bananas, which act as both your health bar and score currency.

Graphically, it's functional but does nothing to evolve the series from PS2. The monkeys are cute, in a characterless sort of way, and the story is told through anime cut-scenes which spin a bizarrely serious yarn about Specter, an embittered space chimp and his plot to have revenge on... something. For some reason. He makes sad faces and stares out of spaceship windows while sombre music plays. There are two chirpy female sidekicks who want to catch Specter because of something to do with their grandmother. You will not care for the details.

These cartoon interludes gobble up chunks of time that could be better spent playing, and the attempt to inject drama into a game about putting apes in a net is ridiculous and self-important, as futile as trying to make you feel empathy for the Rabbids.

So you slowly chug along your fixed path, through derivative environments ranging from icy plains to Jurassic valleys, using your slingshot to prang apes from afar and a fan to swish up any banana pods that stray within range. Then you'll stop and apes will start to dash towards you in an attempt to steal your bananas. You can stun them with your slingshot, and catch them in your net when they get close enough.

Then you go back to trundling along the path. Then you catch more apes. And so on, for a couple of minutes, before you have to catch a special ape at the end who is supposed to be naughty ape leader Specter, but invariably isn't. That really is the extent of the gameplay. There's a half-hearted Kong-style boss battle, but it's as resigned to mediocrity as everything else.