Ape Escape Academy (PSP) review
"The problem is though, try as they might, monkeys are not very good at imitating other people. Sure, dressing one up in a suit and giving it a cigarette may make us all smile, but its constant ass slapping and habitual masturbation is hardly the definition of quality entertainment. And that becomes an all too fitting caveat made doubly relevant once Piposaru Academia gets underway. "
If a thousand monkeys were locked away with a thousand typewriters for an infinite period of time, you'd eventually have Hamlet... or so probability would have us believe. Then again, if Sony took those very same simians and slapped them through a portable party game, you'd probably end up with something resembling Piposaru Academia. That is, a shambling mess of good ideas weighed down by some piss poor game design and random helpings of thrown fecal matter... as monkeys are prone to do. Players that push on though may be surprised to find that the aforementioned probability factor eventually comes into play as the medium sized line-up of assorted mini games begins to display some real potential. And while there's nothing here that could rival the party greats of Mario and Wario, there's most definitely charm and personality to spare...
Monkey see, monkey do
The problem is though, try as they might, monkeys are not very good at imitating other people. Sure, dressing one up in a suit and giving it a cigarette may make us all smile, but its constant ass slapping and habitual masturbation is hardly the definition of quality entertainment. And that becomes an all too fitting caveat made doubly relevant once Piposaru Academia gets underway. The credits roll and the music kicks in, then there's a number of opening sequences the game won't ever let you skip. Relax, breath, and try to chill out. Remember the monkeys dude, those playful, playful fools. It's having put such cardinal sins behind us then that players are handed a basic 3x3 tic-tac-toe grid and told to get to work. Each square represents a game, and each game is supposed to be fun. The roulette wheel begins to spin and before too long you're presented with your first actual challenge. Which, oddly enough, has absolutely nothing what-so-ever to do with the game itself. Yeah, so I'd be worried too.
For unlike other similarly themed titles, Piposaru Academia's most damming flaw stems from what is perhaps the PSP's biggest triumph, the UMD drive. Where Wario was able to present his 5 second bursts of micro-game madness at a brain hemorrhaging pace, Sony's mischievous monkeys need to load their exploits one at a time, slowing the action down to a sloth-like crawl. And though these mini-games are a little more involving than most, it's hard to dispel the fact that all you're really doing is waiting... and waiting... and... waiting... for the next event to load. Piposaru's events however do come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from the blink and you'll miss it 1 meter dash to some Monkey themed Air Hockey and deep sea diving. Bananas are roasted on spits while quiz shows fill in the gaps, and though you may find time to appreciate the variety, that loathsome loading screen is always but a minute away. Gah! Gah! and Gah! some more.
With things already kind of, sort of average, Sony have thrown a final banana in the works thanks to some generally sluggish and unresponsive controls. Monkey Soccer, a high flying parachute rescue and a dozen more potentially exciting challenges are trundled out and executed in a slow, running through molasses style type of aggravation. Heck, sometimes they even stink of feces and freshly ejaculated simian fluids as well! Yet, believe it or not, Piposaru isn't necessarily all pain and very little gain. There's a fair bit of monkey love to be had, providing you're willing to live with some incredibly blatant faults. The events that do play well are highly enjoyable and when viewed in context with the colorful, cartoon esque graphics, represent something that could have possibly, maybe, perhaps only during a full moon, been considered a good time. But first you'll have to give it a chance...
At the end of the day, Piposaru Academia unfortunately graduates with little more than a "C" point average. Compared to the sub-mediocre delights of Sony's previous genre outing (Gacha Mecha Stadium Saru Battle *deep breath* aka Ape Escape: Pumped and Primed), this is a glorious sequel of which they should be proud. All things being equal however, that's not really saying too much. The combined quality of the mini-games is certainly a vast improvement, though forcing players through the annoying single player mode in order to unlock them was most definitely a mistake. Some will persevere, others will look elsewhere, and in the meantime a hefty great big dump has been left on the once great Saru Gechu name. If you're truly desperate for something new to enjoy while out and about then perhaps you'll find some value here. It won't keep you coming back for more, but it may just be enough to tide you over until the PSP's next big release. And at the very least, you'll always have the monkeys to enjoy...
* There's a good variety of mini games for players to enjoy
* A ton of unlockable extras give you something to aim for
* Piposaru's colorful graphics really manage to shine
* A good use of humor will keep players smiling
* It fills a gap in the release line-up... really... it does
* Load times are excessively frequent
* Cinema/dialogue sequences cannot be skipped
* Sluggish controls will have players screaming for revenge
* There's a general feeling of frustration that permeates everything
Staff review by Michael Scott (February 01, 2005)
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