Ape Escape (PS1) – Review

Another classic PS1 game to play on my PlayStation 5. Oh how time flies. I have a lot of history with this game. I remember picking it up for PS1 when it came out back in May 1999 from my local Toy’s R Us. It was the first game to explicitly require you to use a DualShock controller. So not only did I have to buy this game, I had to get a controller with it just to play it. That’s a big ask for a kid with limited funds, but I was already sold on the possibilities this new controller could provid.

You have to see how crazy this scene is in motion, building move around, wobbling like they’re made of jelly.

What’s interesting about these times is that a full three years prior, Sega released their Saturn 3D controller to use with Nights into Dreams. That was a controller with one analogue stick, along with the traditional D-Pad, that would give you smoother control over the way your character would fly through the environments. Instead of a digital interface, like a keyboard, you got the smooth motion that only an analogue stick could provide. Sony just went to the next level and added another stick, forever changing the game. The history of console gaming has to give it up for the efforts of Sony and these developers for making it a requirement to play this game, it’s just sucks that the first person shooters of the time didn’t get the memo.

This is what I respect out of this game. I have to give it up for the fact that they were the first to go all in on this new standard of control. It’s a little harder to praise the rest of the game though. The new PS Plus subscription service allows you to play some of these old games on PS5, I’ve already played a few of the other PS1 classic games, but this title really highlights a main issue I have with these games. For context, the PS1 has some really weird graphical issues when you play them, polygons seem to be made out of Jell-O and textures warp left and right all the time. The texture warping doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s what 3D games on a PS1 look like, so I can overlook that (even though modern emulators have solved this problem). My main issue with the 3D games on PS1, and especially this one, is the way the PS1 handles vertex points. If you don’t know, a 3D object is made up of polygons, each triangle polygon is composed of three vertex points. The PS1 can only do integer translation of these vertex points, which means the hardware itself didn’t have support for floating point calculations. So what does that get us in the 3D games that came out? It means that vertices constantly snap as they move, it’s not gradual and can honestly be visually annoying and can cause headaches. I feel like this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we’re now playing these games at higher resolutions on 4K screens, the problem is just amplified to an insane degree. Modern emulators can solve these issues, but that feature is currently not supported on the emulator the PS5 uses at this time.

Ape Escape is almost hilarious to play today. As you go through a few stages, you start to realize just how small these levels are. You can catch all the monkeys and get the collectable coin(s) in about 5-10 minutes. The draw distance in the game is insanely short as well, with parts of the level fading into the skybox at about 50 feet from the character.

I ran through the whole game and got the platinum in this one as well, but I did use my trusty rewind feature. I would run up to monkeys and if they got away after a bad catch attempt, I would just rewind it and try again.

I wouldn’t say this is a great game in today’s landscape, especially considering the evolutionary leaps in controls and gameplay since this titles release. Even compared to Mario 64, which came out 3 years prior, the controls are no match to what Nintendo were already doing. The controls in this game are a little bit of a gimmick, the right stick is used to give directionality to your attacks, which makes the camera controls default to the left and right of the D-Pad. This feels horrible and actually made me change the controllers button mapping on the console level to swap the R2 and L2 for the left and right D-Pad. There wasn’t way to make this change in the game which was frustrating.

a cinematic scene without the draw fog.

Another one of those classic PS1 games that I am glad I went through and got the platinum but couldn’t see myself ever playing this again, perhaps in another 23 years or so. It feels like watching an old movie today, you have to understand the cultural context to when it was released to really appreciate it, and I appreciate this game for what it’s done. It really needed some quality of life improvements like better controls and the ability to map buttons differently. It would have also benefited heavily from modding the game to allow for floating point calculations, I really had a hard time towards the end of the game with the way the motion of the polygons were translating, it was honestly giving me a headache. I also did play this on a 77″ TV, which made the actual jumps between frames turn into inches of my screen. If you play this on a 13″ CRT monitor using VGA cables, I’m pretty positive those issues aren’t as noticeable.

The draw distance is funny.

Final Score – 6.8

Play it just to see and feel a little bit of the history of video games and to help understand where the industry evolved from. This is a landmark title that is a little rough around the edges by today’s standards. The story is basic as fuck, the graphics are hilarious, and the controls are frustrating until you adjust them on a console level, and then they’re just a bit better. It will be really interesting to see what the sequel did for the series though, so perhaps I’ll try that at some point. One more thing though, the main character Spike, sucks. I beat the game and can’t remember him having any sort of personality or even saying anything. I’m sure he must have, but this is not a mascot for Sony by any stretch of the imagination.

Big boss battle!
What until you see this in motion. The vertex points are popping all over.

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