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Ape Escape Academy Preview

Scheduled release date:

When Sony announced a new Ape Escape game for the PSP, many eyes and ears perked up at the thought of a new Ape-themed adventure game for Sony's much-anticipated handheld. Upon further investigation, it turns out that Sony is actually working on TWO different Ape Escape games for the handheld.

One is a remake of the original PSOne game, which should be out later in 2005. The other is called Ape Escape Academia, and it's out later this month (December 2004) in Japan.

Ape Escape Academia is a story-driven mini-game collection, similar to Nintendo's WarioWare series.

The game does use vivid 3D graphics, as our screenshots attest, but the actual tasks involved in playing don't require players to move within the environment very much. Each task will typically last approximately 30 to 60 seconds, and employ rudimentary controls like button mashing and tapping of the directional pad.

Sony has included more than 50 different mini-games. Some use only the directional pad, such as the balance game, where players balance a stack of bombs by pressing the left and right arrows, or the bull game, where players can press left or right to wave a cape around and taunt rampaging bulls. Some games require loads of button pressing, where you toss pillows, lift signs, or run races by rapidly tapping one or two buttons. Other games involve both the directional arrows and the buttons, such as the flower game, which asks players to maneuver around a park and hand out flowers to passers-by, or the trivia game, where players are asked basic math, history, and video game related questions and have to pick an answer as fast as possible.

Single player options include endless and time attack choices, as well as a story mode, which is how the majority of mini-games are unlocked. The basic plot behind the story mode concerns a young ape that has recently enrolled in Ape training school. His goal is to graduate with honors and star in the next Ape Escape game, which you can help him do by completing the mini-games the game throws at you. You'll be able to outfit your ape with new costumes, and fill his room with trophies and figurines, by beating mini-games and graduating grade levels.

Most PSP games support wireless link play, and this new Ape Escape is no exception. Two players can compete against one another using only a single game disc. Four-player play is also supported, but requires two PSP's and two game discs. In a nutshell, you'll need one PSP and one game disc for each pair of players. One interesting gimmick involved in multiplayer play is that players can risk the rare figurines and items they earn in the story mode by betting against their opponent. The winner takes home the loot, while the loser kisses his swag goodbye.

Ape Escape Academia will be released in Japan on December 30, 2004. There's no word yet on a U.S. or U.K. release, but we imagine it will get here in some form or another–perhaps packaged with the Ape Escape remake Sony is currently working on.

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