The Ape Escape franchise has been somewhat absent of late. Like Sony's other successful platformers of yesteryear, it has been demoted to spinoffs and remakes on the PSP for the past half decade. However the advent of the Playstation Move has provided the perfect output for family-friendly games like this: the first instalment in the Ape Escape franchise on a home console for over six years.
The story mode (the fact that it is called this is an absolute joke due to the remarkable lack of narrative) starts out promisingly with a cut-scene composed of high quality Japanese animation. However when the story emerges, it merely consists of the protagonist being told to catch Apes by two girls because they are looking for a specific one. Each level boss is against this particular Ape followed by the revelation that it is just a regular Ape dressed as the Ape you're looking for (because the Ape you're looking for is in another castle. I'm so funny).
Gameplay is a rapid departure from the previous games and is no longer centred on platforming, in favour of on-rails shooting. Yes you read that right. This is more House of the Dead than traditional Ape Escape (not thematically obviously!). The iconic space Ape creatures of the series run at the screen and you have to catch them in an on screen fly net which is controlled by the Move controller. The net is just the first of many gadgets that you can use in the game such as a catapult, paper fan and giant vacuum cleaner which are used to shoot Apes, collect power ups and beat Apes away. You use these gadgets to progress through different levels trying get the biggest combo of Ape-catching to attain the highest score possible resulting in you being awarded with a bronze, silver or gold medallion.
In addition to the so-called Story mode, there are mini-games that are unlocked as you progress through the game. The first of which is a peculiarly one-sided co-operative kart racing affair where one player (the person whose Playstation it is) drives the car and the other (who drew the short straw) shoots power ups with the Move controller. The second is a bog standard find-the-ape pointing game and the third is a bizarre Plants vs Zombies type of tower-defence game where you have to freeze the Apes that approach. None of these are anything more than fleeting amusements and are unlikely to be played more than once.
What is immediately clear is that the Playstation Move functionality is integrated absolutely beautifully. There is a training introduction where you can see the Move controller on the screen and it shows off the true one-to-one motion tracking that we were promised at the launch of the Move. This is exactly the sort of thing we were seeing in the tech demos at E3 all those years ago. Unfortunately this is probably where most people's enthusiasm will dwindle due to the fact that the levels become tiresome very quickly. They each go on for far too long and soon after beginning each one, you find yourself hoping that it will end. And one thing that irritated me on a personal level is the fact that after you catch each Ape, an ethereal voiceover echoes the phrase "Gotcha!" which gets extremely annoying when you can easily find yourself catching hundreds of Apes in a 4 minute level. Although I have to say that there is a really cool feature where you can use the microphone on the Playstation Eye camera to record your own phrase to play when you catch an Ape. I changed it to something rude and this entertained me for much less time than I thought it would!
Despite the fact that it is a budget game with an RRP of less than half that of a full game, Ape Escape is unfortunately not the killer app that many hoped it would be and is certainly not of high enough quality to justify you buying a Move. Repetitive and dull gameplay hold this game back from being anything more than a momentary distraction. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
5 out of 10