Review: Can monkeys steal my net anymore? Why of course they can! Well, they couldn't before.
Before Jak teamed up with Daxter, before Ratchet hooked up with Clank and before Sly Cooper banded together his gang of thieves, Sony's platform business was pure monkey business thanks to Ape Escape. It was the first PlayStation game to require a Dual Shock controller and is best remembered for its novel analog control scheme. The third installment of the series on PS2 still contains those same unique controls, and the similarities don't stop there. Except for a few minor tweaks, Ape Escape 3 is essentially the same game from five years ago with lots of new levels and even more monkeys. Having the same tried-and-true monkey formula from a generation ago means that the series hasn't really matured. Then again, when the theme involves a lot of wild apes running around, that's the same light-hearted demographic you want to attract, if you think about it.
Ape Escape 3 once again revolves around Specter, an evil monkey genius who must be stopped by a pair of new heroes. For the first time, players chose between two characters, Kei (the boy) and Yumi (the girl). The brother and sister duo replaces the main characters from the previous games because they've become couch potatoes. This is all part of Specter's latest scheme for world domination. Along with a human scientist named Dr. Tomoki, Specter took over the television airwaves only to broadcast mindless programming, more mindless than reality TV. So, it's up to you to travel from level to level with different Hollywood themes and capture monkeys dressed in a variety of adorable and funny costumes reflecting those themes.
The monkeys aren't the only characters who play dress up in this game. New to the series are costumes for your character that present different advantages throughout the course of the game. There's a knight outfit, Wild West getup, ninja uniform, etc. Transforming into the knight outfit, for example, gives you the ability to block fire by using your shield, swing your lance by rotating the right analog stick and capture monkeys in a magical net by clicking the right analog stick down, otherwise known as the R3 button. This kind of action deepens the already innovative controls with something a little extra.
Unfortunately, that little extra from the costumes is everything Ape Escape 3 adds to the main game. Gadgets are fun to use as always, but remain the same. Puzzles are also fun to solve, but aren't exactly challenging. And the overall level design, while bright and colorful, lacks the painstaking detail seen in competing platformers. Aside from the main game, there are interesting multimedia clips, monkey fortune telling and mini-games that can be unlocked. The mini-games are the most worthwhile of the group, especially if you can unlock Mesal Gear Solid. This is a takeoff of Metal Gear Solid in which players going around in Solid Snake fashion trying to avoid guards and rescue hostages. It really gives you a reason to collect coins in order to purchase this one-of-a-kind mini-game.