Who's a cute little chap? Who's a cute little chap? Who's a cute little chap? Ape Escape 3 is a cute little chap! Oh yes he is! Oh yes he is! Oh yes he is! It's brighter than a Hollywood starlet's fake veneer smile, has a story involving escaped monkeys, lots of weird Japanese singing, illegal hypnotising monkey-made TV broadcasts and not a single drive-by shooting in sight. If you want something a bit simple and stupid that's full of lots of pretty colours, this is the one.
And, right, one of the characters has got blue hair. That's an automatic win every time. You select blue-rinsed Saturo or his nine-year-old sister Sayaka, then set about capturing monkeys in a series of classic TV-themed missions. The TV Station area is your central hub, from where you select levels, play unlockable mini games, mess around with rather pointless Horoscope features and head off down to Market Street to buy music and mini games, or to watch the movies you've recorded by hijacking monkey cameras as you're playing. Ape Escape is busy little boy. Oh yes he is!
Ape Escape's unique feature has always been its use of the left stick to move and the right stick to attack and capture monkeys, and it's the same this time around. L1 centres the camera behind your character with the right stick reserved for swinging your net or whatever weapon or special device you happen to be holding. It's a fun little system. It takes a while to get used to centering the camera behind you - which is a massive pain when the game has you constantly running around in circles - but you can forgive it because you're too busy dodging banana skins and chasing monkeys.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
You have four devices and weapons locked to each controller button, and these can be set up in the pause menu. So if you want to always have your Monkey Radar handy, you can. If you're an attacking chancer of a player, you might just have your clubbing weapons and net. The radar's never really that necessary, it's only monkeys. They're not that clever at hiding.
When you do find one of the game's 400-odd monkeys, prepare for a fight. They're angry, and you have access to a range of Morph attacks - super-powerful transformations where your defence and attack are boosted many times. These special transformation hits are pulled off by making wild circles of the stick, as is speed running once you've got the Dash Hoop. Ape Escape 3 isn't just about pressing a few buttons, it's about using the controller as a weapon and giving you the ultimate hand and finger workout.
Which basically means it's good fun. It's a physical game - you'll be waving your arms about, laughing a bit, spinning the sticks and getting in a right mess sometimes - but there's always a new challenge, different theme or some sort of new gadget to try in the next mission.
As you gradually capture your quota of monkeys in a particular level, the same old Ape Escape flaw pops up - you have to replay that whole mission again if you want to get that 100-percent ranking. If there are 15 monkeys in a level, chances are you only need to capture 12 or so to complete it. Once you get to 12, you're warped back to the TV Station and expected to play through it again. It's a cheap way of dragging the game out, that.
But good old Ape Escape has a barrel of alternate features that really do make the game much better value. The mini games you can buy from Market Street are good, and one of them - a Metal Gear Solid spoof that features monkeys holding bananas as guns - will take several hours to beat. They should drop the 'mini' tag on that one.