Ape Escape Academy
Mini-games are totally in at the moment, not the least thanks to the Nintendo DS and games like WarioWare. Monkeys have always been cool, think of Monkey Island, King Kong or even Donkey Kong. The people at Sony didn’t have to brainstorm for long to find the following brilliant idea: take a bunch of monkeys, look for about 50 mini-games, put a name on it and release it on PSP. A handheld is after all the perfect platform for games you play for a couple of minutes and then send it back to the closet. Unfortunately, after playing Ape Escape Academy for five minutes, I felt like sending the game back to the closet for ever!
But let’s not rush and see what this new game is all about. The concept can’t be any more simple: you choose a monkey (the color of his pants to be precise) and work your way through the Ape Academy by every time completing a year. This year consists out of 9 mini-games (shown on a 3×3 square) that you have to end successfully before you can go to the next stage.
If you fail to form a line of 3 successful missions on your grid (horizontal, vertical or diagonal), you need to replay all nine of them. If you do succeed, you get after each level some very uninteresting unlockables and the played games will be added to the other modes and multiplayer.
So far no problem! But this doesn’t last for long: once you’ve played two mini-games you already feel like throwing your precious PSP in a corner. The games are unbelievably uninspiring, react on your input like reporters in Afghan caves, are worse explained than how my religion teacher can tell about integers, and the loading times are to eat your shoulder buttons. I don’t want to include the cutscenes and the tutorial in this as those are worthy of positive mentionings.
Back to the gameplay itself then. The 5-second games from WarioWare are ingenious compared to this crap! Nintendo at least makes sure you don’t have to do nothing for half a minute before procedding after having played 3 seconds. On top of that it’s unbelieveable how complicated and unlogical the controls are, especially when taking into consideration that such a concept can only work if you don’t need to think about which button to use.
Seeing that some games are a bit of fun and after trying a couple of times you get the idea of most of the mini-games, the fact remains that 80% of all of them are plain boring or, even worse, frustrating. I’m not going to say much about the graphics and music for the simple reason that there’s nothing to say! All very mediocre stuff.
Ape Escape Academy is a spectacular failure, both on a technical as well as a design side. It’s better to throw your hard-earned money to the monkeys in the zoo than use it to buy this as Sony has dared to release one skunk of a game! Unbelieveably long loading times, boring mini-games, bad controls, failed design… If you want mini-games, buy yourself a Game Boy and WarioWare and enjoy truly fun games instead of this collection of failures that belong only in one place: the trash bin!