As if to counter the knee-jerk anti-simian sentiment fostered by the Ape Escape series, in which a revolving cast of spiky-haired anime kids runs around snaring mischievous monkeys with nets, Sony presents the monkeys' side of the story with Ape Escape Academy. OK, so there probably aren't any underlying sociopolitical motivations behind this minigame collection, but there are plenty of monkeys, and the inherent appeal of watching cheeky little monkeys dressed up in funny little costumes comprises much of the appeal of Ape Escape Academy. This loopy energy, however, is the only thing standing between you and a compilation of pretty by-the-numbers minigames.
Ape Escape Academy gives you a look at how the other side lives, putting you in the role of a simple monkey with a cop light on its head training to become a suitable hench-monkey for Specter, the hyperintelligent nemesis who has been cooking up monkey-fueled world-domination plans since the first Ape Escape. Like some kind of weird combo of high school, boot camp, and the monkey house at the zoo, your hench-training is split up by grade, and each grade is presided over by a different instructor, which happen to be the boss monkeys from Ape Escape 2.
Each grade contains nine minigames, which are played at random. The screen that you randomly pick from is set up like a tic-tac-toe board, which figures prominently into whether you will graduate from a particular grade. Passing a minigame will net you a circle on the board, while failed minigames get stamped with an X. After you've played all nine minigames in a particular grade, the total number of "lines" that you've made with the circles is tallied. For the first few grades you only need one complete line to graduate, but that number starts to increase as you advance, and the games themselves get harder, too.
We can't help but be skeptical about the connection between tic-tac-toe and monkey training, and this seemingly arbitrary choice makes the format feel like a lazy, top-of-the-head solution for presenting the 40-odd minigames in Ape Escape Academy. What's worse, though, is that there is no way to drop out of or repeat a grade before you've played all nine minigames. If you're in position where it's impossible for you to score the necessary number of lines to graduate, but there are still several minigames left to be played, this little quirk proves exceptionally annoying.