The Basics The faster Spike ran, the easier it was to imagine his head had burst into flames. Well, it was just so easy. An incandescent jumble of red and yellow ribbons streaming off the top of his head, he was both Spike: Hero of the Original Ape Escape and Spike: Perpetual Barrel Trash Fire with Arms and Legs. In Ape Escape 2, you take control of Jimmy, Spike’s younger cousin, in an even larger and more ambitious adventure. And the mane attraction? It wasn’t as out of control as Spike’s hair was slicked back in giant prickles and…well, how many heroes do you know look like prepubescent Super Saiyans? And one that does his morning exercises in a wind tunnel?
It's the unspoken philosophy of Ape Escape: The bigger the hair, the bigger the adventure. To wit: the hero of the upcoming Ape Escape 3, Kei’s wacky azure hair can be described as ocean waves crashing into each other during a storm. And using that the Coif-o-Meter predicts that this is going to be best Ape Escape game yet, the equivalent to monkey shootouts in space, monkeys in submarines, monkeys exiled on a remote island, eating bugs, and voting each other off said island, and monkey celebrity dancing all in one glitz-filled package.
That may be a more accurate description that you think. Specter and his gang are back up to their usual monkeyshines, this time taking over a television mega studio and putting up programs that poisons the mind of anyone who watches. Kei, and his younger sister, Yumi, infiltrate the sets to take put an end to the primetime primates. By running from one on-set location to another, it’s also the perfect inroad for the series’ growing obsession with lampooning and satirizing pop culture. The TV premise alone should entice your average university thug with a “Kill Your TV” bumper sticker.
But it doesn’t stop with the cinema; the game’s also jiggy with the modern game scene. A new metamorphism move allows Kei and Yumi to transform into different characters – such as knights, cowboys, and genies – that will grant them new abilities and access into unreachable places. A ninja transformation plays up on the ninja’s upswing in popularity, complete with double attacks and wall acrobatics. Along with Ninja Gaiden Black and the new Prince of Persia, it’s going the Fiscal Year of the Wall Running.
At least one of the series’ trademark minigames have spoofed other games. In the original, there was a Robotron spoof (though it now resembles more Geometry Wars in this day and age). Ape Escape 2 had a Crazy Climber rip-off, including insane difficulty. And in this one, we’re promised a minigame where two monkeys are each controlled with an analog stick simultaneously, yet another reason to sell that copy of Adventures of Cookie & Cream that’s collecting dust on your shelf. And in the game’s piece de résistance, we have Mesal Gear Solid, a Metal Gear parody that features Ape Snake sneaking through eight stages, using bananafied weapons, collecting dog tags, and taking down the new Metal Gear.
What do we think? Ape Escape has always been a series free of pretension, always lively, accessible, and creative platformers. This one doesn’t look be to be any different. I’m especially anticipating the heightened AI.
The first three (including the battle arena spin-off, Primed & Pumped have been rather easy, but Ape Escape 3 boasts monkeys further up the evolutionary scale that will dodge attacks. Piss them off enough and they may knock weapons out of your inventory and use them against you. If a monkey uses the Time Net against you, you’re booted out of the level. Whether this is going to be frustrating or challenging, we’ll see on January 17th when the game’s released. But after seeing everything else this game has to offer, silly hair or no, this game’s shaping up to be more entertaining than Sweeps Week.