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Ape Escape

Developer: SCE Japan Studio Publisher: SCE
31 May 1999
Ape Escape - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.75 / 5.0
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412 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#621 All-time
#29 for 1999
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Releases 10
1999 SCE  
CD-ROM
GB 7 11719 78772 3 SCES-01564
1999 SCE Japan Studio SCE  
CD-ROM
XNA 7 11719 44232 5 SCUS-94423
1999 Japan Studio SCE  
CD-ROM
JP 4 948872 100915 SCPS-10091
Show all 10 releases
2005 Japan Studio SCE  
Disc
XNA 7 11719 86092 1 UCUS 98609
2006 SCE Japan Studio SCE  
Disc
XEU UCES-00045
サルゲッチュ 初代PSアーカイブス
2007 Japan Studio SCE  
Download
JP
2022 Japan Studio SIE  
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SCE  
Disc
AU 7 11719 64446 0 UCES-00045
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Title
Here’s a little trivia question for all you frothing nerds with too much useless information in your memory banks: what is the first PlayStation game that forbade the use of the classic PlayStation controller model, igniting a downward spiral that soon rendered it obsolete and ushered in the age of the Dualshock that still persists today with Sony’s game consoles? Was it yet another innovation that the first Metal Gear Solid contributed to the medium? Is it perhaps the reason why Final Fantasy VII is still held in such high regard? Perhaps Crash Bandicoot needed the double analog control scheme to perform rude gestures with, obnoxiously sticking double barrels in the air at Neo Cortex upon dismantling his laboratory? If you guessed any of these classic titles on the original Playstation, you’d be dead wrong. However, if your guess was Crash Bandicoot, you’d at least be on the right track. The Playstation title that dared to reject tradition and embrace experimentation is the 3D platformer Ape Escape. While some well-versed video game historians might sometimes credit Ape Escape with its place as a dividing line between the beta model of the first 3D console controller and its more practical superior, the general public of gaming seems to have forgotten it. In fact, Ape Escape is seldom mentioned alongside its 3D platformer contemporaries such as Crash or Spyro, much less in the grand scheme of the entire era of the 3D platformer across all consoles that Ape Escape was staunchly a part of. Tis’ a shame, for Ape Escape’s reputation, is worthy of more than simply a footnote in the early history of Sony’s tenure as a video game console heavyweight.

Ape Escape’s premise is fairly self-explanatory. The monkeys have escaped from the zoo, and pandemonium ensues. Specter, their savior, is an albino monkey (even though he barely resembles the same simian phenotype of his peers) that has been granted the gift of superintelligence by an experimental helmet. His superior capacity for insight makes him realize that he and his fellow chimp compatriots are under an oppressive human shadow while living at the zoo. But simply liberating himself and the other monkeys from captivity is merely step one of Specter’s master plan. The bigger picture here is that while Specter and the rest of the apes are free from human confines, humans are still the dominant species on the planet. To usurp the biological throne from human hands, Specter uses the time machine built by the professor who also made his helmet, and sends fleets of apes across a myriad of past periods throughout time, rewriting the course of history and ensuring that the apes come out on top in the present. Fortunately, the human race isn’t doomed to be subservient to their pre-evolved species, for their fates lie in the hands of an adolescent boy named Spike who will chase the apes across time to put them in the rightful, diminutive places. The developers ostensibly skimmed over the plot premise of 12 Monkeys and didn’t bother to actually see the film in full while multiplying the amount of time-traveling monkeys by a factor in the triple digits.

Recapturing the apes involves using a net apparatus so comically sized that it’s fit for Dick Dastardly but hey, we’re catching monkeys here, not butterflies. Using the net on the field is (technically) not assigned to a simple button, for it and the other gadgets Spike needs to restore balance to the world coincide with Ape Escape’s innovative, dual-analog control scheme. The direction of the net’s downward swing depends on whichever 360-degree swing the player executes on the right analog stick. The same function also applies to the lightsaber modded as a stun stick to briefly subdue the apes whenever they run from Spike or when encountering other enemies scattered across each level. Spike’s gadget inventory is found in the pause menu, but he can assign a total of four of them to use in a roulette by each button on the controller. The saber and the net are already assigned to the triangle and X buttons, and the player should ideally keep the two on those buttons because of their constant usage. The other gadgets juggled around both the square and circle buttons include a monkey radar that tracks the general direction of nearby apes, a slingshot for projectile damage, a hula-hoop that gives Spike a temporary speed boost when swung around, and an RC car. I don’t know exactly how to compare the neon-glowing gadget that allows Spike to glide, but I always feature this gadget in an inventory slot because how it allows Spike to mitigate gaps between platforms. Obviously, placing the utility of each gadget on the right analog stick is unorthodox, especially since this is the first game that featured the use of the extra protuberance. In execution, using every gadget is surprisingly smooth, with the circular span of the beam weapon and the net as a testament to that. Rigidity is never an issue while using the gadgets. Relegating the jump mechanic requisite for all 3D platformers to the R1 button is arguably an even stranger facet of Ape Escape’s control scheme.

As innovative as Ape Escape’s control scheme is, it is ultimately the next page in the 3D platformer playbook written by Super Mario 64. I suppose Ape Escape verges more towards the collectathon angle of the genre, only if screeching apes that scurry away from Spike when they spot him count as collectibles. The objective in each level of Ape Escape is to catch an arbitrary number of pesky primates located all around the map doing various mischievous things. Ape Escape is cut from the cloth of the exploration-intensive 3D platformer, as Spike is dropped onto the landscape and is free to roam around it in whichever direction he chooses to seek out the rogue chimps. Despite its relatively free-flowing design, Ape Escape unfortunately borrows the boot-out system from Super Mario 64. Once Spike apprehends the number of monkeys that the game assigns in the objective, Spike returns to the hub located in the present day. The amount given in the objective will never be the total number of monkeys swinging around, so he will always leave the level incomplete. While I enjoy the fact that the game doesn’t force measures of completion upon the player, I wish the game gave the player the option of staying in the level if they so choose to wrap things up nicely and put a tight Christmas bow on their package of recaptured monkeys. Banjo-Kazooie existed a year before Ape Escape was released, so perhaps borrowing the totally free-flowing, sandbox design philosophy of that game would’ve fit Ape Escape more suitably as opposed to the initial 3D platformer influence.

Capturing monkeys encompasses the entirety of Ape Escape, save for the two racing missions placed in between two worlds. The gameplay variety isn’t exactly nuanced, but the game does its best to divvy up the constrained parameters of its main objectives. I claimed that the monkeys would bounce around evading capture, but the dynamic isn’t simply predator versus prey for each one. As the game progresses, the monkeys will resort to desperate tactics to maintain their freedom. The grunts of Specter’s operation will throw banana peels in Spike’s way so the boy will slip and fall, a wise use of classic money resources if ever. The higher-ups are stacked with some serious firepower that they must’ve somehow stolen from the modern military. Some have machine guns and energy blasters, and others will spurt a barrage of missiles at Spike from a backpack. The irritating bounciness of their jumping around and their no-nonsense weaponry is why I suggest using the element of stealth when approaching them if possible. Still, the variety of the monkeys, as ruthless as they can be at times, offer a fair and engaging difficulty curve in what becomes the standard grind of the game. Also, the enemy variety from the digging sprouts that shoot pellets to the winged creatures expands on that variety splendidly. The only other collectible is the golden Spencer tokens used to unlock minigames in the hub. Seek these out only for the steeper platforming challenges they offer, because the minigames do nothing but reference the potential of the dual analog sticks, which is something that we are more than familiar with in retrospect.

While the events of the past are firmly etched in the history books that ground them in some kernel of reality, at least a game developed at the turn of the millennium has a plethora of time periods to reference. Specter evidently went to the deepest measures of time to secure the ape’s place as top dog, for Spike reverts the time machine back millions of years in the past to the prehistoric ages. Because these levels occur long before the dawn of civilization, foregrounds are heavily naturalistic jungles that feature unkempt grass, water rapids, and sizzling volcanos. One level takes place mostly in the tender, spacious insides of a carnivorous dinosaur named Dexter, a personal highlight that certainly deviates from the rank humidity of the outside (what is with this era of gaming and its fascination with exploring the insides of giant creatures?) The ice age shifted the climate balance of the previous prehistoric levels on its head with roaring blizzards covering the land in a quilt of thick snow, but the overall topography still retains a dearth of man-made structures and a lack of a busy, congested atmosphere. Eventually, the levels that take place in the era of humanity involve Spike traveling to feudal Japan and the Xin Dynasty era of China, and then to a castle in the Middle Ages of England. After that, Spike returns to the present to find that Specter’s manipulation of the space-time continuum worked well in his favor, and Spike has to eradicate all of his adulteration in the bustling city streets of the modern day. While I appreciate that Ape Escape doesn’t permanently stick Spike in environments where he must wade through untouched wilderness, the developers failed to reach the full potential of Ape Escape’s time travel theme. I don’t think I have to tell anyone that there were several time periods between the Middle Ages and the turn of the 20th century. It would be marvelous to see monkeys riding in horse-drawn caravans on The Oregon Trail, see them perched on the Empire State Building in the 1920s, or storm Normandy during WWII. Alas, the restrained level themes along with the paltry amount of them make Ape Escape a brief experience.

Ape Escape is also probably too silly for its own good. It’s a game with a kooky concept of hunting time-traveling monkeys but even then, Ape Escape goes overboard with this premise in its presentation. Ape Escape has bar none the worst collective voice acting I’ve ever heard in a competently crafted triple-AAA video game. It makes the performances of the first Resident Evil game look like a production of Hamlet performed by the gilded Shakespeare Company, and that game is one of the most notable instances of wretch-worthy voice acting of all time. All dialogue from every character is choppy and sounds almost like the voice actors are treating every line facetiously. When a man is being pursued by a monkey on the city streets, his frantic line of “help me, help me!” is delivered as if it was uttered by someone making fun of him while people watching. Even if there was no one in the recording booth to offer guidance, absolutely no one should seriously think speaking any line with this total lack of delivery should be acceptable. Specter’s voice does not match his menacing, Clockwork Orange stare at all, making every interaction with the game’s primary antagonist laughable. By the time Spike reaches the final level of Specter’s carnival, the game attempts to funnel in a lesson of growth with Spike’s character and his soaring capabilities as a hero, but I’m not slurping this down as a point of narrative substance. Ape Escape didn’t need to be campy or profound: the base wackiness should already strike a tasteful balance. While we’re at it, I can’t think of a more useless secondary antagonist across gaming (or all media) than Jake, Spike’s blue-haired friend who is under Specter’s spell and starts to work for him. I don’t care how intelligent Specter has become, no amount of high cognition will ever give someone the ability to possess people. Perhaps Jake contracted brain worms from inhaling the fumes of monkey feces for too long? Whichever it is, the developers didn’t need to shoehorn him into the game as a villain to motivate Spike to save the world. I would think that preventing an alternate timeline of being a monkey’s neutered pet bitch would be a substantial enough incentive already.

Ape Escape’s colossal strengths as a 3D platformer lie entirely in its gameplay. What could’ve been just a glorified tech demo for Sony’s new controller model and its capabilities resulted in something that surpassed all expectations. The fluidity of the analog controls is impeccable, and the unique objective involving swiping up monkeys in a net never grows tiring. While I remain yearning for a wider range of level concepts with the time travel theme, at least the modest amount of levels on display are designed to foster an inviting sense of exploration. Ultimately, Ape Escape might have crumbled in the eyes of gamers because it’s kind of dumb. Yes, dumber than an orange marsupial conquering a mad scientist with nothing but a pair of jeans. Still, it’s dumb fun all the way through. If Ape Escape was the beta test to see if the Dualshock would be functional, then no wonder the controller still reigns supreme.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-21T20:39:49Z
2017-07-21T20:39:49Z
8.0
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Title
This game is yet another reason why I love a lot of games from this earlier time period before so many design conventions became a far more standardised affair. If someone tried to release a game with a control scheme like this in this day and age, they'd get laughed at and be told it was unplayable, and yeah, the first 20 minutes is a bit of a learning curve, but it ends up opening up the gates to a huge amount of possibilities that simply feel incredibly satisfying and fun to interact with because of the design decisions made to get to this point. That said I'm also not really entirely sure if a game like this would quite be made in the same way today regardless since it feels like such a huge amount of time was pooled into figuring out how to get the absolute most out of the capabilities of the 2nd analog stick, essentially being a tech showcase, but one that works so effectively as a regular gaming experience as well that I can't help but fall in love with what Ape Escape does. So many bits and pieces of this are what so many other game studios could only dream of, feeling as if they're reinventing the wheel for even the most simple of concepts and succeeding as well as they do here, it's honestly incredible.

So much about the core gameplay loop of Ape Escape oozes innovation without ever feeling as if it prioritises the idea of doing something new over doing something that contributes to the experience, making for a game that feels constantly fresh, yet never unfocused or cumbersome. While it initially seems like a bizarre choice to set R1 to be the jump button and to have camera control done through the D-pad and using L1 to snap the camera behind you, after a bit of time getting used to this it just feels 2nd nature and paves the way to some of the most fun interactions on the PS1 and platforming in general. The way that each tool in your inventory is utilised through moving the right analog stick in certain ways, whether it's flicking in a direction to instantly turn and attack, spinning around in a circle to set off propeller blades, or even driving around an RC car, everything's just given this additional layer of perfect control over your capabilities that make even simple actions have a considerable sense of weight to them. The variety of gadgets on top of the more nuanced ways in which each can be used also helps contribute to diversifying the level design due to how many tools you get at your disposal while keeping things very intuitive.

Even beyond this novel and fun method of controlling your character, I also think that the idea of a collectathon where the primary collectibles are also enemies is a clever way at shifting the dynamics at play and also adding further weight to each successful capture. Even the simplest instances of collecting a monkey here end up feeling like you accomplished something small just because you've either had to chase them down or sneak up on them, adding a more active element of gameplay to the equation and usually being a huge part of contributing to the bigger obstacles you face throughout. This works really well for a couple of different reasons, as it not only frames the monkeys as a group of antagonists that have very real, tangible effects on the world and the player's progression, but it makes replaying stages to pick up the remaining things you missed a far quicker, more convenient job since you've already removed so many speed bumps on your first run. Being able to mitigate this feeling of repetition is always something nice but comes especially in handy when taking into account how expansive so many of these stages end up being, spanning so many loading zones and cool setpieces that will often ask you to use the majority of your arsenal to get through.

This stage design is yet another huge draw of the game with the way it's able to so effectively jump between so many aesthetics and atmospheres while always remaining cohesive. Little, extra functionally pointless additions like giving each monkey a name and quick blurb about their personality is also really neat, especially when you consider that there are 204 of them to catch and some of them are pretty funny as well, my favourite of which being the existential philosopher ape that spends their day kinda blankly staring into space. Exploring the levels just to see what wacky antics the monkeys are getting up to is fun enough, but it's further complemented by the incredible drum n bass soundtrack that goes insanely hard while wholly contributing to the desired feelings that they're looking to evoke. Little touches like a lot of the chaotic percussion being stripped away while sneaking also add a ton of charm to what is already such a distinct and effective OST as well, which only serves to further bolster the impeccable presentation on display.

Despite doing so many things right however, I'd still say that the experience falters in a few key areas to a significant enough degree for me to not quite want to sell my soul to it. The biggest complaint I have on this front is how the boss fights are handled in such a consistently underwhelming way that kills a lot of climactic moments as a result. For a game that leans so heavily on the gadget mechanics for mobility and utility, stripping away all of this for the boss fights, instead making them entirely beatable with nothing at all, it just feels like a core aspect of the experience is entirely lost. It's made even more unfortunate that this is combined with the fights being really lame regardless, often being the same attack cycles 4 - 5 times over where you just hit once in between each overlong waiting period where you're largely just running in circles and occasionally jumping. The voice acting in the American version of the game which I played is also atrocious on a level that I can't even find something to even enjoy through the lens of going "haha, look at that". There's awkward, stilted acting, and then there's Ape Escape which feels as if it transcends classification with how painful a lot of the cutscenes end up becoming as a direct result of this, which is a shame when the cutscenes themselves are pretty nice to look at. A couple of other smaller things like time trials in this sort of game not quite fitting can be pushed aside a bit because there's not really any reward for doing them and it clearly feels like a bit of extra content for those who are interested in that stuff, fortunately, as the only thing you need to get to the true final boss is all the monkeys, which in this sort of game tends to be what people consider the baseline anyway.

On the whole, despite having a couple of glaring issues that stop me from wanting to just slap a 5 on this, Ape Escape is one of the freshest and most fun platformers I've played and all of the earnest goofiness that it revels in is something I want more of when it's done like this. It doesn't feel silly and funny for the sake of making others laugh as much as just naturally being a game that taps into those vibes strongly, it's pretty cool and not the sort of tone I can really think of too many other places where it's popped up. Really just proves that the seemingly endless list of conventions some say games need to follow to be "good" is way, way smaller than you'd think as long as you know what you're doing to some extent, because this really does feel like it wouldn't be anywhere near as successful with a more traditional approach both to collectibles and player control. Definitely give this one a shot, it's an awesome, charming time that's full of monkes, what's not to love?
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Kempokid 2022-08-19T13:57:44Z
2022-08-19T13:57:44Z
4.5
1
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Catalog

worldfell Ape Escape 2024-04-19T07:09:20Z
2024-04-19T07:09:20Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
1068396 Ape Escape 2024-04-19T02:07:46Z
2024-04-19T02:07:46Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TheInverseCynicism Ape Escape 2024-04-17T20:22:54Z
2024-04-17T20:22:54Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SergLeDerg Ape Escape 2024-04-04T04:51:32Z
2024-04-04T04:51:32Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Shiromizu Ape Escape 2024-04-03T18:02:35Z
2024-04-03T18:02:35Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FirstMate Ape Escape 2024-03-29T16:55:34Z
2024-03-29T16:55:34Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Kluwenblauw Ape Escape 2024-03-27T21:00:39Z
2024-03-27T21:00:39Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
thm_yrk12 Ape Escape 2024-03-26T20:03:58Z
2024-03-26T20:03:58Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zakduece Ape Escape 2024-03-25T00:40:47Z
PS1 • XNA
2024-03-25T00:40:47Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
In Progress (100%)
PubeHairForestFire Ape Escape 2024-03-18T23:47:23Z
2024-03-18T23:47:23Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
legiontheai Ape Escape 2024-03-16T10:47:27Z
2024-03-16T10:47:27Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eliottstaten Ape Escape 2024-03-11T01:16:53Z
2024-03-11T01:16:53Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: E
Player modes
1-2 players
Media
1x CD-ROM
Multiplayer modes
Deathmatch / FFA
Multiplayer options
Local
Franchises
Also known as
  • サルゲッチュ
  • Saru Getchu
  • Saru Get You
  • Monkey Get You
  • View all [4] Hide

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  • Previous comments (6) Loading...
  • mmminogue 2021-07-25 11:16:34.291577+00
    this and spyro 2 are the ultimate comfort food games
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  • SMZXW 2022-01-30 03:56:31.979992+00
    mexico desperto cabrones
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  • grayymann 2022-08-19 00:30:16.489856+00
    about halfway through this game atm and it's so funny. i love it i feel like it seems underrated
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  • HandsomeCJ 2022-09-27 23:46:40.313451+00
    ost is incredible, aesthetic is nice but i just don't think the play of it works compared to 2 and 3. wonderful to see a game experiment before 3D gameplay and controls were set in stone though
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  • Miry 2022-11-10 16:22:17.173844+00
    the only downside of this game is the controls. otherwise, everything is great.
    reply
    • vibrii 2023-08-01 10:18:54.62828+00
      honestly controls extremely well compared to some other games from the era and the dual analog gimmick is used very well for the gadgets and mini games
    • Miry 2023-08-15 19:29:43.025071+00
      i suppose it's alright once you familiarise yourself with the unique dual analog gimmick, but it makes the game unreasonably difficult at times - at least for me anyway.

      also it has one of the best soundtracks to any game ever imo
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  • VindictiveHotdog 2023-08-25 17:56:56.064338+00
    I really don't like the actual controls or platforming all that much. But the aesthetic, lighthearted nature, the banger soundtrack, and the premise really make this a great game. I even went back and 100%'d just because I loved it so much. I also remember my mom being pissed at me as a kid having to go back to the store and buy a dual analog stick controller. Good times.
    reply
    • VindictiveHotdog 2023-08-25 18:00:29.204967+00
      Also, the Primordial Ooze stage level music brought back so many memories. I stopped just to listen to it. So good.
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  • Green_h 2024-02-22 05:39:58.547032+00
    for being like *the* first analogue stick game with a weird ass control scheme i think it holds up oddly well. I think that has to do with the structure of the game actually. its kinda similar to mario odyssey of all things with how free it is and not really requiring a lot of punishing platforming until the late game. But i think when the game gets to that point and starts getting more linear the weird controls stop working in its favor and the game starts to drag like hell
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