Ape Escape (PlayStation 5) Review
Time travel, monkeys, a kid you really want to beat up – Ape Escape had it all. And now it can again on PlayStation 5.
Thanks to the new PlayStation Plus release, the original PS1 classic has found new life, outputting at a higher resolution, with a handful of quality of life features and a trophy list. This is a great chance to relive the good old days or capture a monkey army for the first time.
My only knowledge of Ape Escape came from the Metal Gear Solid 3 cameo. That’s not a shocking team-up in hindsight, considering that the plot here is like something out of a Hideo Kojima game. A monkey equipped with a sci-fi helmet that turns him smart (AND EVIL) sends his simian army through time in the hopes of becoming earth’s dominant species. There are giant robots, touching cutscenes and no doubt nanomachines could play a part if you really wanted them to.
This game proves the potential of PS5’s return to the classics. And is a great reminder of how simple things used to be.
Monkeying About Through Time
Ape Escape is a third-person action game in which you must capture monkeys across various stages. You’re armed with a host of gadgets from a net that sets the monkeys hurtling through time, to an extending boxing glove. These were largely all to show off the brand new dual analogue controller, and it does it well. Controls are tight, and clever.
Every item uses either the right stick to aim, or the L3/R3 button in some way. To the uninitiated, this can take some getting used to. Nonetheless, after a few levels you realise that it’s different, but not worse. It works. In fact, it’s fun. Spinning the stick to imitate the helecoptor blade as you fly, for instance, is simple and enjoyable.
Most levels aren’t huge, and you won’t spend too much time in any of them. However, the later levels are time consuming, to the point where almost a quarter of your time will be taken up by them. Pacing doesn’t feel great in that regard, but it depends how you want to play it.
Because of its innovative use of the control sticks and because it doesn’t overstay its welcome, Ape Escape still feels fairly fresh today. However, it’s still a PS1 game with everything that comes with that.
Reviving a Classic
Ape Escape benefits from several new features thanks to the PS5 emulation. Rewind functionality is easy to use, and benefits the game massively. Having to repeat levels because of deaths would be frustrating, and a cheeky rewind or a bit of save states take off the edge. I was surprised this didn’t impact on trophies.
With that said, the trophy list is pure bait anyway. It is simple and the platinum will be achieved largely just by playing the game. You only need half of the monkeys and two thirds of the coins, missing a secret ending entirely. Honestly, it felt like enough, but between the features included in the emulator and the simple nature of the list, trophy hunters will want to add this to your list immediately. It took me six or seven hours.
Graphics and Sound
This is a PS1 game. In other words, expect to be underwhelmed by the visuals. I was impressed with how they’d polished it up with a higher output resolution and filters. These are things that have been available on PC for forever, but it’s nice to see them on console. The overall effect is an old game, but one that still has an art style that is easy to enjoy.
Living in the UK, I played the PAL version. That is the version that plays at 50Hz instead of 60hz. That means lower refresh rates and a slower running game. Honestly, that wasn’t a massive issue for me. Even knowing about it didn’t much change my experience.
Music is fun and addictive, and the voice work is good in a kind of PS1-era way. On the other hand, the child voices can be a bit obnoxious, partly because of the exaggerated English accents. I was longing for a chance to hit Buzz with my light sabre.
Ape Escape (PlayStation 5) Review – Conclusion
Ape Escape is a fantastic blast from the past, and one that I loved experiencing for the first time. It’s accessible, and the new features of the PS5 emulation make it even more so.
Trophy hunters and retro fans will love it and should jump in as soon as possible. Others should give it a try. When games of a bygone era are this good, it makes it worth the download.