Ape Escape Academy - PSP - Review
Ah, monkeys, who doesn’t like them? Personally, I feel that adding monkeys to various situations just make things even better; I mean who doesn’t want to see monkey figure skating or monkey ice hockey? Thankfully there’s the Ape Escape series that has been keeping monkey fans more than satisfied on the PlayStation and now, finally, on Sony’s PSP. In an effort to bring us a wide variety of monkey-themed mini-games, Ape Escape Academy is here. Schools in so bring plenty of bananas.
Last year’s Ape Escape: On The Loose for the PSP introduced a few mini-game challenges fit for up to two-players. While the main game was a passable experience, it was fun diving into such mini-games like simian boxing, ping-pong and snowboarding. Ape Escape Academy, though, is all about the mini-games so if you’re expecting to see the usual monkey-catching antics of Spike you’re in for quite a surprise. You see, you’re a monkey who is enrolled in an academy started by Ape Escape villain Specter in order to perfect a more efficient army of monkeys. In these halls of academia, you will go through a series of challenges across four semesters.
The game’s main mode, Academy Mode, starts with a series of training exercises that introduce that game’s controls as well as tests your reflexes and trust me when I say you’ll need to be quick with the button pressing in most of the challenges you’ll encounter in the game. So what does it take to graduate with monkey honors in this academy? Your first instructor (you get both a red and blue simian instructors) will introduce a grid with the picture of the series of events that you’ll compete in during a semester. The images will flash continuously until you press the X button and that mini-game will start. If you complete a challenge an O will appear and if you fail the challenge and X will appear along the grid. If it looks familiar that’s because you’re playing tic-tac-toe on said grid. When you complete them all, the game seeks out each O so if you have a horizontal or vertical row of Os the game will reward you points for each row completed. Then you’re free to move on to the next semester.
The mini-game challenges in question vary in difficulty and quality and this is both the Ape Escape Academy’s strength and weakness. The good news is that there are a nice number of mini-games (forty-two in total) and you can always find new ones by revisiting past semesters you might have completed or go back and complete a challenge you might have failed the first time around. The bad news is that various mini-games range from dull to annoying to really quite baffling. Here’s a quick run-through of many of the mini-games you’ll encounter in this game.
There are mini-games that have you sky diving while trying to catch a number of parachutes as well as other monkeys in order to save them all. Another game has you raising a huge shield while trying to block a sea of arrows shot at you from afar. There’s a game that has you fending off a pack of hungry monkeys attempting to eat a giant banana you claimed all for yourself. Then you’ll find some mini-games that baffle the mind. There’s a series of math questions that have nothing to do with monkeys but it is there, and there are some baffling mini-games like the bullfighting game that just makes no sense at all. Sadly, you’ll find a number of weak games.
In case you want to replay past mini-games there’s Game Collection mode where you can play favorites you unlock in Academy Mode. Like Nintendo’s WarioWare games, each game you successfully complete can be accessed and played in a top-your-old-score manner. There’s also wireless multiplayer, allowing you to play a number of mini-games such as Monkey Hockey (a two-player air hockey game) as well as Karate Chimpster. The multiplayer has Share Mode (for two-players) and Multi Mode (for up to four players).
On the visual front, Ape Escape Academy is not a bad-looking game. It displays the same colorful backgrounds and characters of past games. The game does look a lot sharper on the PSP and it's great too see how smoothly the animations look on its wide screen. There are some decent visual effects in this game, especially when it comes to displaying fire and water and the monkey madness, as always, is charmingly funny. The game’s main menu is even easy on the eyes as well.
The game’s sound might not impress as well as the visuals do but they get the job done. The game’s soundtrack is composed of upbeat tunes that can be a bit repetitive but strangely enough it doesn’t become an annoyance (then it could be because the games move at a quick pace). The sound effects are plentiful and while you’ll hear the usual monkey noises, there are some familiar sound effects true to the series. There’s some voice acting but it suffers from the usual rough translation.
Ape Escape Academy for the PSP might not be Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s WarioWare or the Mario Party games but with a small number of decent mini-games this might be a game you’ll want when you’re looking for a quick gaming fix. Unfortunately, not all the games are winners and some will even have you scratching your head but at least there’s some solid multiplayer fit for any Ape Escape fan. It’s a nice try but here’s hoping the sequel will be a lot better than this.
|Review Scoring Details for Ape Escape Academy|
Monkey sky diving and monkey dodge ball can be very fun but then there are some seriously dull games like monkey bull fighting and a poor rendition of monkey air hockey that spoil things. You can always come back and retry the semester to unlock even more mini-games or revisit favorites for more points.
The game looks like an Ape Escape game and that’s not bad at all seeing as the game is still nicely colorful and the monkey shenanigans are still charming funny. The animations look particularly sharp on the PSP and the visual effects just sweeten the deal.
The voice acting is still plagued by a rough translation from Japanese to English but other than that it’s all about the music and the sound effects. The music won’t drive you nuts although some of what you’ll hear is repeated throughout the game but the sound effects are not bad at all.
Some of the game’s various mini-games are no-brainers and will test more your motor skills than your cerebellum, but then again there’s a math challenge as well as the tic-tac-toe game within a game you play while selecting mini-games.
The number of mini-games is just Ok but be prepared to be disappointed by the quality of many of the games you’ll play throughout the game. Many of the great mini-games are the inventive or the simplistic ones that have you dodging arrows or keeping a ravenous bunch of monkeys from reaching your giant banana. There are collectable monkey statues and wireless multiplayer.
There is wireless multiplayer fun to be had since there are a number of game modes that feature more than one monkey on screen at once. The game’s Share Mode has a few two-player games while Multi Mode is fit for up to four players (monkey trivia, anyone?).
Ape Escape Academy for the PSP has a number of mini-games but unfortunately not all of them make for a particularly engaging or challengingly fun package. Granted there are games that are enjoyable fun for gamers of all ages but there are more weaker mini-games than there are addictively engrossing ones. This one might not be worth the purchase price but if you’re a fan of the series or crave a collection of mini-games for your PSP, you just might want to rent this one.