A to Z Revisited: Ape Escape

Remember when the original Playstation released, and it had that controller that didn’t have any analog sticks? It looked like this:


It’s almost hard to recognize the controller nowadays, as the iconic dual analog sticks were missing from this original release. But back in 1994 that’s how every Playstation controller looked. It wasn’t until the release of the oft-forgotten Dual Analog controller for the Playstation released in 1997 that we got our taste of twin-stick goodness with games. Later in 1997 we would get what would become the standard Playstation controller for their entire brand, remaining largely unchanged as of this writing: The DualShock controller.

While many games would go on to support the Dualshock and Dual Analog controllers as options to play their games, it wasn’t until Ape Escape released in 1999 that a game explicitly required Dual Analog or DualShock support in order to simply play the game. By that point the DualShock was the only controller being sold most places, but imagine your disappointment if you brought home the game and didn’t know you had the wrong controllers for it. Ugh…

But this isn’t a revisit to a controller: it’s a look back at one of the better original Playstation games out there. Or if nothing else it is at least one of the most unique. As stated, Ape Escape requires the dual analog sticks to play the game. You move your character with the left stick, while using the right stick to use a variety of weapons and tools. It takes a minute to get used too, even by today’s standards, but once you do it’s actually a very effective and fun way to run around each zone capturing mischievous monkeys.

All of the Ape Escape games have you doing primarily the same thing: capturing apes that have run amok. Using your net you can capture said simians, but it isn’t always as easy as sneaking up and bagging them. Sometimes you’ll need to use an assortment of gadgets to get the job done. These range from straightforward tools like a rod to hit and stun your prey, to an R/C car you can use to reach otherwise out of reach places. Other highlights include a radar to locate each stage’s many monkeys, and an awkward helicopter helmet to fly around. It was wacky, it was funny, it didn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s everything I love about video games.

I didn’t play the original Ape Escape until several years after its initial release. In fact, I think I played it after I played the (sadly) last in the series on the Playstation 2, Ape Escape 3. By the time that game released there were a lot of refinements to the series, not the least of which being the visuals. It’s kind of a given, but Ape Escape 3 on the PS2 looks a lot prettier than Ape Escape 1 on the PS1. Going back, it’s a bit blocky and rough around the edges, which isn’t helped by all the TVs nowadays having much better picture quality than TVs back in the early 2000s. Despite this negative note on presentation, Ape Escape still plays just fine. The bright and cheery visuals actually look better, too. Especially when compared to other PS1 games that tried to look more serious with their tone (I’m looking at you, Tomb Raider).

One of the biggest selling points for me on whether or not I like a game is how fun it is to play. I know right, go figure! With Ape Escape, and with games like Ape Escape that don’t take themselves too seriously, I feel the developers made a game to be silly good fun. The premise is weird. The gameplay has quirky gadgets and unique controls. The visuals tried to be colorful in a time when more serious games were all the rage. It’s actually something I’ve come to appreciate from developers even more in the present: making a game that feels like a game. Sometimes I do want to be taken to a world of espionage like Metal Gear Solid or a world of danger and whimsy like Final Fantasy VII. And then other times I just want to jollily run around capturing silly monkeys using my dash hula hoop and magic net. Is that too much to ask?


A to Z Revisited is a companion piece to the A to Z Series of streamed games on Twitch. In the Twitch series I am playing a new game each week on the Playstation I have never played before, starting with the letter A for the first week, and moving down the alphabet. With this A to Z Revisited series, we’ll be talking about games I have played before that match the letter. Hope you all enjoy!

DownStab has been a personal endeavor of mine for many years. Please enjoy the content and let me know if you have questions, comments, or just want to connect. And as always, game on.

– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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