The original Ape Escape was released for the PlayStation in 1999 without much fanfare. The game was a great platformer that was very charming but rarely flashy, and it eventually found its place in history as a sleeper. Sony Computer Entertainment, the Japanese arm of Sony's PlayStation business, went on to release another game set in the Ape Escape universe in July 2001. The game, known as Pipo Saru 2001 in its native land, broke from the platform-game roots of the original and took an action-puzzle approach. It was just as cute as the first game, challenging you with the outrageous task of sucking the pants off delinquent monkeys using a vacuum cleaner. Then Sony produced a true sequel in mid-2002. It was assumed that the game would simply be buried and forgotten, with Sony's US arm focusing on homegrown platformers like Ratchet & Clank or Jak and Daxter. Ubi Soft, however, has rescued Ape Escape 2 from the import shop, translating it into English and releasing it in North America. The sequel sticks very close to the blueprint laid out by the original game, but don't mistake its light-on-innovation design for weakness. This PlayStation 2 game is every bit as solid as and even more charming than the previous two games.
Ape Escape 2 is an excellent sequel to a sleeper hit.
Ape Escape 2 puts you in the role of Jimmy, the cousin of Spike, who was the protagonist in the first game. Unaided, Jimmy can do very little. He can double-jump, lie flat, and pretend to be asleep. He gets most of his other moves from a wide array of gadgets, most of which appeared in the first game. Your main monkey-catching tools are a stun club and a net. The idea is to whack the monkeys with the club, knocking them over, and then quickly switch to the net to scoop them up and whisk them away to safety. As you proceed, you'll be granted access to several more toys. Returning from the original game are such tools as a monkey-spotting radar dish, the swimming-helper aqua net, the speed-boosting dash hoop, a slingshot, an RC car, the helicopter-like sky flyer, and the ever-popular magic punch.
The game features three new gadgets as well. The bananarang is a banana-shaped boomerang that can be used to knock over enemies. It also has a secondary function that makes the bananarang emit banana-scented gas, which attracts some of the monkeys. The water cannon is mostly used to put out fires. The electromagnet lets you move heavy metal objects. The game throws quite a few puzzles at you, but solving most of them is fairly easy, as the solution to the problem of which gadget to use in each situation is usually immediately obvious. The game's control is also a breeze to figure out. Ape Escape was the first game to require the use of the dual analog sticks on the Dual Shock controller, and the sequel mirrors that control scheme identically. The left stick is used to move around. The right stick controls your currently selected gadget. You can use this to, say, poke your stun club out in any direction. Some items, like the dash hoop or sky flyer, require you to spin the stick like a helicopter. The face buttons are used to select from up to four active gadgets at once, though the active gadgets can be switched around very easily, both on the fly or in a pause menu. The shoulder buttons handle camera movement and jumping.
The object of the game is to catch monkeys--300 monkeys, to be exact, though you can finish the game with a significantly lower number. Catching monkeys is as simple as finding them and netting them, though the wide array of monkeys requires you to use a bit of strategy as you play. Some monkeys aren't alert enough to notice you sneaking up behind them, making them easy marks. Throughout the game, you'll encounter a bunch of these easy-target monkeys, but some of them put up a fight. You'll also fight ninja monkeys, knight monkeys, Uzi-toting monkeys, and even fire-breathing monkeys.