ReView RePost- Ape Escape 2 Review (The Rest Won’t Rhyme)

ReView RePost is a reoccurring series while I publish articles previously hosted on my 1UP.com user page.

To this day, I think of 1UP.com as the best gaming website by an “enthusiast press” outlet. Its talented staff and active userbase promoted engaging commentary from all sides. My time on 1UP inspired me to write about games, and for that I cannot thank its contributors enough.

Tragically, 1UP’s magic was snuffed out when business decisions got in the way. Soon after its parent company sold ownership, 1UP suffered lay-offs and changes in direction. I abandoned the site once it became a shadow of its former glory. My departure from 1UP, and a newfound need to host my writing elsewhere, prompted me to start this fangblog venture. [So, not only did 1UP’s existence help birth your writing hobby, 1UP’s slow death then helped launch your website? Splendid!]

In 2013, 1UP.com closed its digital doors and stopped updating. The archived URL is still accessible, but it’s closer to a ghost town than a website. The main page rests frozen in time with outdated news articles, missing content, and a final message on the state of the archive. The user blogs are so broken now I can’t access all the posts I wrote, which is why I need to preserve them here.

For most of these articles, it will be the first time I revisit them since frequenting 1UP. The silver lining to this transition is that I’m free to improve the formatting and style of my earliest works while maintaining their original intent. [More like rewrite the worst parts and mock anything left. Hah hah.] After the piece, an addendum section addresses changes between my former opinions and my current views on both the game and article itself.


Ape Escape 2 Review (The Rest Won’t Rhyme)
originally posted July 31, 2007

Warning: this review contains feelings of monkey-catching nostalgia. [Thanks for the tip-off. I’d leave if I could.] When my brother showed me his newly-bought, used copy of Ape Escape 2, oh, how the memories of my gaming past came flooding back. In my early days of ignorance, when I knew little about major and widespread videogame series, the original Ape Escape was among my favourite games. I can still remember the first time popping it into my PS1…and how I took minutes just to move the character.
monkey controllerThe original Ape Escape came out a year after Sony’s DualShock controller featuring analog stick input. As the first game to require DualShock functionality, its controls were designed around those new analog sticks, a scheme then unknown to me. [Funny, the instruction manual and opening screens blatantly mention needing to use the sticks. Maybe you were a little slow as a kid? Dropped on your head or something? Nevermind that, keep on with the story.]

Frustrated, after giving myself a sore thumb from pushing on the d-pad to no effect but rotating the camera, I tossed the controller aside. The throw must have nudged the left analog stick, which moved the character accordingly on-screen. At that moment, console gaming changed for me. New degrees of controller accuracy and freedom of movement were made clear to me that day. [I’ll be sure to note it in the history books.] I came to the sequel with high expectations, so how does it fare?
Ape_Escape_2_USAreApe Escape 2 ‘s control scheme can no longer be considered revolutionary by any means, however, it still functions when applied to the PS2 controller. The analog sticks retain the bulk of control, with the left stick moving your character and the right stick utilizing your gadgets. Camera control is very loose, only being able to reposition behind your character by pressing L1. [This is totally false. Were you oblivious to the d-pad being used for camera rotation just like in the original? Here we have a reversal of your little story about Ape Escape 1. Instead of not knowing the function of the analog sticks, you forgo the utility of the d-pad. How foolishly appropriate.] Jump is set to both R1 and R2, while your gadgets are mappable to the four face buttons for on-the-fly switching.

The archaic controls might seem daunting or ineffective at first, but the game plays at its own leisurely pace. Enemies give you enough time to safely switch gadgets before attacking, and platforms provide generous downtime for you to carefully position your next leap. These are not the only saving graces you will find. [I wish you had found some for this review.]
pip2The main character is often accompanied by a winged, diaper-clad, monkey-catching familiar named Pipotchi, who will, from time to time, completely save your ass from death [finally, a sentence I can endorse]. Pipotchi will occasionally take you by the collar and guide you back to a platform if you missed a jump, or feed you cookies if you run out of health. I took it as a small blessing allowed by the game, as embarrassing as it is accepting the help of a magically-inclined, infantile monkey. [I think you need all the help you can get.]

Evidently, this game was developed with a younger [ahem] age group in mind. I figured this upon hearing the cast of the Pokémon animated TV show doing the game’s voice acting– Ash, Misty[,] and Professor Oak can all be heard in-game. [Wrong again. Oak’s VA doesn’t contribute a single line to the game. Also, you didn’t include a serial comma in your list. Don’t worry, I took care of it.] If that’s your thing, if that’s not your thing: it doesn’t really matter. All the toned down/kiddied-up presentation doesn’t compromise the gameplay in any serious way. [Yet you previously spent a paragraph and a half explaining how the game is made easier for the intended audience. Nevermind coherence, where is your memory? I’m not sure you were old enough to be reviewing this game on your own.]
astro-catchSo, yeah. May I reiterate? [I’d prefer not.] Ape Escape 2 is about catching monkeys. That’s what the gadgets at your disposal are designed for; it’s how you clear levels. The entire game revolves around putting monkeys in your net, but that’s what makes it so good! The Ape Escape series fuses great action-platformer gameplay with a wacky concept. Does it matter that the story is threadbare and forced? No, not so long as I get to catch monkeys. [You sound obsessive.]
spectreThis game is rife with throwbacks to the original, being practically identical to its successor. [You meant to use “predecessor” here. I can’t believe you made that mistake.] The uninspired and duplicate story can be summed up by the opening cinematic: an evil, super-intelligent simian named Specter has rallied together 300 monkey brethren to wreak havoc on the world. Your mission as Jimmy the plucky, red-haired main character is to find them and restore order. This gives us a perfectly justifiable reason to do what we do in this game: catch a whole lotta monkeys! [We know already.]
sneak-upAttached to each monkey’s noggin is one of the “Monkey Helmets” Jimmy accidentally sent en masse to Specter’s monkey island refuge (thank you, storyline). Each Monkey Helmet has a light bulb on top, which flashes blue, orange, or red [an existing serial comma? I’m impressed.] depending on the monkey’s agitation. With careful monitoring of your target’s awareness level, you can creep up on the distracted primate for a stealthy catch.

Of course, sometimes that’s the harder route. This is, after all, a zany children’s platformer. Most catches are done by sprinting up to the beast, batting it with the stun club, then swinging the net about madly. Some of the monkeys wield guns, some don skis, and some cast magic spells on you. But have no fear: you’re a monkey-catching machine, and you take…well, lots of prisoners. [This ain’t a comedy routine. Moving on.]
bomb-catchIntrepid Jimmy gets about 12 gadgets throughout his journey. [About 12? Couldn’t trust yourself to verify?] Most of them solve simplistic, derivative puzzles like “squirt water-pump at fire” or “hold onto metal with magnet,” lame shit like that [calm down, tough guy], though some are pure gaming fun. The dash hoop gives a powerful burst of running speed; the sky-flyer propels one upwards and lets one hover in mid-air; the RC car and slingshot are obvious shoe-ins.
egypt-levelThe stages run the gamut of cliché game design: ice and winter levels, a haunted house, some futuristic place, prehistoric land, etc. [I’ll etc. you, mongrel.] Then come the bosses: misshapen mutant monkeys who deliver cheesy voice acting and semi-interesting stages. One boss throws a T-Rex at you. I’m not kidding. It’s rough. Poor T-Rex…

Rampaging monkeys are not the sole collectables. There’s mini-games, extra RC cars, cool facts, pictures, comics, music, movies…even 20 short stories featuring monkey-styled parodies like Monkerella and Little Red Monkey Helmet. Sure, the stories are poorly adapted with sappy joke endings, but they keep the game’s trend– weird, unique, fun[,] and easy enough for all to enjoy. [You forgot the serial comma that time. Shame!]
apeslap2I’m going to take a moment to discuss the score I’m giving. [Ugh, if you must.] It gets a 7.5 from me, and that is a present scoring as of 7:15 p.m., September 15, 2008. [How accurate. I’ll be sure to note it in the history books.] That’s taking into account all games and all consoles since the game’s release in 2003 [this statement is so ridiculously wrong and terrible]. I’d say that’s pretty good. [I’d say you’re an idiot.] For the sequel to a game so revolutionary in my mind, it’s great for reminiscing. I suggest picking it up used or renting it for a weekend. [Wow, people still rented games when you wrote this?] It’s quick, it’s fun, it has 300 monkeys, and they’re slapping their asses at you right now. [I’d still prefer to see that over reading this garbage again.]

Addendum:
For the review-

What an ordeal. I dragged this piece kicking and screaming through its revisions. Despite all the complaining and bad-mouthing I spent in my first ReView RePost, this one started out [and finished] far, far worse.

As is often the case with sequential attempts at something, my second review was harder to write than my first. Granted, I spent much less time composing this one. [I’d say we’re both paying for it now.] Possibly, I didn’t bother to read the damned thing once over before posting it online. [Simply atrocious.] I was too preoccupied with writing as expeditiously as possible. Already by my second review, I had developed a guideline to invigorate my productivity [like a whip to a donkey’s arse]. I vowed to review each and every game I played, moving on to the next only once I had posted the previous review.

Sounds like a decent plan, but overzealous alacrity can supercede and hinder quality. During this workflow, if I was itching to play my next game, I was likely to post anything and call it a review. I followed this rush-job writing “style” for months.

Upon reflection, this might have been beneficial to my writing development since it got me pumping out material on a steady basis. Generating a large volume of work is important for someone learning the ropes to creating a writing style and editing it down. Forcing myself through the paces of writing “full pieces,” no matter how shoddy and hastened, got me to eventually refine the writing system I had built up through repetition.

More detestable to my current sensibilities than the rushed writing is how I reviewed Ape Escape 2 before the first one. At the time, my demeanour was to review any game I played. Despite my enjoyment in childhood, I certainly didn’t want to replay Ape Escape just to review it as a formality before the sequel. As a result, I included that story in my introduction to outline my familiarity with the series. Unfortunate, since the anecdote would have worked all the better in a review of its own game.

Among all this project’s reworking, the most egregious cut content was a suite of awful references. Perhaps I figured that making allusions to other videogames would present me as knowledgeable, but of course the opposite happened. The references were faulty and amateurish, so they all had to go. I axed mentions of Twilight Princess, Super Mario 64, Metal Gear Solid, the Wii, and even an anime of which I still haven’t seen one episode. [Too embarrassed to name-drop the show? Allow me. He had included a minor catchphrase from Naruto. Why? I have no idea.]

My current standards simply cannot accept mentioning media I haven’t yet written about. Call it conceited, but I don’t want to build up extraneous prerequisites for readers who have followed my work. [Dear God, that is conceited.] Eventually, I did review Metal Gear Solid. After doing so, I would have no trouble sticking a comparison to it in later writings. Technically, Twilight Princess already met that criteria, but I removed the tie-in anyway because the connection was inaccurate.

In many ways, this review will go down as the runt, the abominable child of my writing progeny, who wasn’t born right and couldn’t find redemption. My amateurish past self [ahem] didn’t put nearly enough time into the piece, and it shows: generic construction, blatantly erroneous statements that I didn’t bother fact-checking, overall showing a lack of skill and discipline. On a few occasions when working it over, I considered ditching the original and totally rewriting the review, but that was more a temporary feeling of exasperation than a real consideration.

Remember, with this ReView RePost series, my intention is to adapt previously existing work while keeping its shell intact. I wasn’t about to completely retcon my second review just because I didn’t like it anymore. Instead, I had to return to square one and work from the original post, only bringing it to its most readable form [using that term fast and loose].

This crappy videogame review–which few people (if any) had read in its first rendition and few will read now–is a part of my writing history. As much as I try to cover it up, I can’t deny it. So it stays here as it is. Besides, I wasn’t prepared to fully re-conceptualize an Ape Escape 2 review since even now I haven’t reviewed the original. In the end, doing them chronologically would have made discussion of the two games so much easier, given that they are so similar.

[You did what you could this time; no shame in that. The way I see it: you can’t polish a turd, but you can drag it through a ditch in hopes it gets covered with enough dirt and dried-out so as to be less sticky. That’s how the saying goes, right?]

For the game-

Replaying Ape Escape 2 in my late twenties showed me just how bad my tastes were almost ten years ago. The gameplay remains fun, but I have outgrown the immature content intended to amuse the target demographic that I so keenly identified in my 2007-era review. I get the awkward feeling that I enjoyed the “toned down/kiddied-up” crap back then. I really hope the wrestler boss’s fart attack didn’t evoke genuine laughs, but I wouldn’t put it past my old self [that makes two of us].

Not all the game’s comedy is now lost on me. I still enjoy the character animations and most of the art style, which capture the uniquely visual humour that only a game filled with cartoonish monkeys can deliver. And how can someone not find that dinosaur-suplex-move funny?

On the other hand, the (non-monkey) enemy designs range from stupidly absurd to just plain bad. Birds with candle bodies, birds with fruit bodies, pigs with swirly turds on their heads, jelly blobs wearing toupees, eggplant bees– the list goes on, and none of it makes sense.

My only guess for such terrible enemy design: the original, Japanese descriptions were wordplay, and those seemingly random pairings were actually clever jokes. But the English localization of Ape Escape 2 severely lacks any such cleverness. The repeated use of the phrase “cheeky monkey” is enough to surpass quota for the whole series.

“Lacking cleverness” is an apt summary for the game’s presentation. At times, the music sounds no better than the backing to some dinky cartoon or the calibre found in malls and elevators. The game tries too hard to deliver with its new characters and story additions, as evidenced by the bosses, a.k.a. The Freaky Monkey Five. I cringed through the cutscenes showing off their ridiculously caricatured personas and exaggerated voice acting.

Browsing through the unlockables again, I find them not as worthwhile or meaningful as I first thought, but the unlocking aspect itself satisfies a niche feeling. To unlock the collectable items, you spend the coins found in levels at a giant, toy-dispensing machine, like what you might find at an arcade or amusement park. I couldn’t resist how delightful it was to use that machine, like revisiting childhood days of taking a chance with the claw crane except this time without having to spend any scrounged-up quarters.

I view my old Ape Escape 2 review as overly forgiving due to lack of experience. Ape Escape 2 was the second game placed on my grading scale, so there was next to nothing for comparison. I think it started all the way at 7.8 then dropped to 7.5 a year later (why the review mentions September 2008 in the last paragraph despite the original post date in 2007). With more games populating my grading scale, the worse ones marked too generously thus lower in rank, sometimes drastically. Funny how in my original review I brazenly gave a score considering “all games and all consoles since the game’s release in 2003.” Even today, after playing many more games since 2007, my knowledge of videogames is far from extensive and all-knowing, and yet I still rate this game lower. I never thought I would find such a shining example of youthful arrogance in my written work, but there you have it.

  • Play-time: ~10 Hours (first playthrough), ~20 Hours (main game 100%), ~5 Hours (second playthrough)
  • Rating: 7.0
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