Games: Ape Escape 2 <br/>Contra <br/>Pacman World 2

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The Independent Online

Ape Escape 2

Ape Escape 2, SCEE (PS2) £39.99 ****

The video-game community's obsession with all things simian continues with the remarkable Ape Escape 2. The first outing, where you had to time travel to capture chimps, was a instant hit, and the sequel does its predecessor proud.

This time, the game takes our monkey-catching hero on a global quest – the 20 scenarios are now plucked from odd spots around the world (Greek temples, ski resorts) and make full use of the PS2's meaty graphics ability. The most compelling thing, however, is the gameplay, which is extraordinary. This is one of the very, very rare occasions where mayhem doesn't get boring after a few minutes. Mini-games, big bosses and mind-bending puzzles will have you playing for weeks.

Contra, Konami (GBA) £29.99 ***

Gamers who have been around a while will remember Contra – the sideways-scrolling shoot-'em-up masterpiece that made the seamless leap from the arcades to consoles. The concept was brutally simple: blast your way through a series of platform-based skirmishes and then face some gigantic boss at the end of it all. No puzzles. No gimmicks. Just shooting.

Konami took their time realising that this format was a dead-cert success on the GBA, but this is worth the wait. The old jungle scenarios have been dolled-up as a Robocop-style futurescapes. All the weapons upgrades are there and the animation is surprisingly smooth for the GBA.

All of this makes Contra great fun, but perfect it certainly isn't. The first problem is that the game has been set at a frustratingly high difficulty level. Even on "novice" there are parts in the first level that will cost you three lives while you blink. That may make this reviewer sound like a wimp, but overly hard games miss the point of the GBA – easily accessible fun.

Pacman World 2, Namco (PS2) £34.99

Next to Mario and Lara, Pacman is probably the most recognisable computer-games character across the world.

But games have got better, and the little yellow glutton has had a lean decade in the shadows. His return to the gaming stage is a welcome one, and Namco have done a job that reflects the Japanese company's grand tradition of clean, beautiful classics.

Pac has gone 3D, but his mission to gobble everything in sight is nevertheless absolutely intact. The scenery, animation and camera angles are all lovely, and there are even nostalgic versions of old games to unlock. Nothing very original here, but a great title to bring out when you fancy a bit of good old-fashioned munching.

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