Collecting has never been this much fun. It’s almost more fun than a barrel of monkeys. How about a videogame loaded with 200 monkeys? What could be more fun than that? Perhaps, more monkeys? More and more monkeys even? Ape Escape 2 has more than 300 monkeys to collect and if you don’t think that’s fun, then you don’t know nothing about monkeys, dude.

Ape Escape took a rather unoriginal concept, one which has always been a standard element in the gameplay of most games, and turned it into the main objective with good results. Ape Escape 2 has turned collecting into a profession. With hundreds of monkeys on the loose, someone has to round them all up. And that someone is you. But have you ever tried to catch a monkey? This is where the fun begins.

Monkeys are everywhere. They’re in trees, in paintings, frozen in carbonite running every which way but loose. That’s actually the title of a Clint Eastwood movie, one of only two in which he starred with chimps. “Go on primate, make my day.” You can expect plenty of lampoons of popular movies in this game such as Star Wars, Titanic, Matrix, Terminator in addition to nods to games like Mega Man and Land of the Lost. The whole presentation is fun, outrageous and adventurous. While the main premise is to capture monkeys, there are elements of platform, puzzle and strategy that you will have to contend with to get the job done. I admit the game looks like it should appeal to the one-digit age group but such is not the case.

A variety of gadgets including a net, radar, hoops, water cannon and a Banana Rang can all be used to capture the monkeys. Each gadget comes in handy for specific applications to deal with the range of monkeys you will encounter. They have different attributes and personalities. Some are fast, some are slow, some are lazy and some are crazy. Visual clues such as the color of their pants and meters will alert you to the monkey’s status letting you choose the appropriate method of capture. It’s a different situation each time. Despite the seemingly repetitive nature of the gameplay it’s anything but. Not only are the locations different, offering different challenges, but you can also use a variety of vehicles such as RC Cars, a chopper and a giant mech to assist you on your missions. Weapons and other tools come in handy for solving puzzles and accessing new areas of the levels.

Next to robots, one of the best things to animate in videogames has to be monkeys since they lend themselves to the jerky and frenetic animation inherent in such a medium. I have yet to see the perfect human animation but I’ve certainly seem my fair share of excellent animated robots and monkeys. With a realistic 3D look, the characters all have depth and relief which make them appear as animated clay figures only much more refined. Voices are a bit on the annoyingly, cutely side but this game is intended to appeal to a wide age range. I guess they figured kids don’t dig the sound of Bobcat Goldwaith. Then again, who does?

If you can imagine what monkey tunes sound like, you’ll find plenty of examples here. It’s a crazy blend of urban beat and art deco carnival - whatever the hell that means. But it sounds like fun and that’s the main point.

It’s really amazing what can be accomplished by a team of creative programmers. Ape Escape 2 is a great example of a successful collective consciousness. It just lends credence to the saying: If a group of programmers that are confined to a room are placed in front of computers, eventually they will create a great game.

System: PS2
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: June 2003
Review by Fenix