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Ape Escape – quintessential classic Ps1 platformer

The video games market revolves a great deal around shooters, action games and Souls-likes. Sometimes we all want to blow off some steam by shooting some players or die a billion times to a dragon, right? But what if we want to go back to the old golden age of 3D platformers , where you could play as a bandicoot (that happened to wear pants) jumping over holes, a purple little dragon, or basically any Disney character in their own games? Ape Escape is the real classic Ps1 platformer.

Ape Escape was a surprise hit back in the day. A game where you capture monkeys, and have to catch’em all… Is that it? Well, yes, but also no. Specter, a monkey that became super intelligent due to a special helmet, caused an ape-roar of primates in the zoo and set them all free. The monkeys then took over the laboratory of a professor, who – as these things go – happened to own a time machine. Seeing this opportunity, Specter went back and scattered monkeys all over different time periods, in the hopes of rewriting history. This way, Earth would become a real Planet of the Apes and not of humans.

You play as Spike, a young boy with…Spiky hair, who would have thought? The Professor asks you to travel to different ages and capture all the monkeys in order to stop Specter and his nefarious time-bending, world-changing, ape-centered plans. In the game you go through the dinosaur age, the ice age, medieval ages, among others, and up to the present day. The Professor shall provide Spike with several gadgets for help in catching monkeys. There is even a lightsaber-ish weapon to attack with, indeed from Darth Vader, to Darth Monkey it is quite an easy way. 

Although the game is mainly about catching monkeys, it’s not that simple. As a typical platformer, you are required to jump around, well, platforms, and swim and fly to get through obstacles. Sometimes you have to tread slowly to walk on small paths, or use your gadgets in specific ways to solve puzzles. Progressing through levels, the monkeys get gradually smarter and more dangerous (at least some of them, others just keep having the intelligence of, well, a monkey), and other enemies get tougher. You go from killing plants to defeating giant robots, sometimes with the aid of a mini-tank.

In some levels, you will also have to face your brainwashed friend, and now rival, Jake in some space races, which you must win in order to proceed. Just don’t fall towards the big empty nothing of space. (There are no monkeys there… yet).

With everything considered, the best part of the game is still the monkeys itself. Each one has a name, some stats, and a personality. Seeing their goofy attitudes and descriptions turns the plain ape catching job into quite the amusing one. How will the next monkey be? Will it be a singer, a clown? It can be anything. You can catch an ape called Indiana, who likes studying ruins, or Chicken, who happens to have very high speed (luckily for him) and is a big coward. You can imagine the pain it is to catch Chicken (sure better than play it!). There is even a Van Gogh and an Elvis. There are many simian related puns to discover in every place, so make sure to get every single monkey. Unless they get you first.

If you are someone who loves exploration and searching for hidden items, you are in luck! In every level, there are special Specter Coins to find. Some are in plain sight or require you to have a certain gadget, or they are hidden in the darkest corner and will make you turn the world upside down searching for them. These coins will unlock mini-games, such as a snow race, a boxing game or an arcade shooter, where you ride a flying saucer around and shoot lasers at enemies.

If you love old games and enjoy platformers, Ape Escape is clearly a must play, a real classic Ps1 platformer. The original game was only released for PSX and PSP, but you can now enjoy it, along with its sequel, in the new Playstation Plus Premium tier. If you have a subscription, make sure to catch this hidden gem. The game is optimized for PS4 and PS5 for a smooth experience on modern devices. Just don’t expect the game to bring modern visual quality, as it will still have… quite ape graphics.