Maybe you’ve heard of “Ape Out” before. Maybe you’re always on the lookout for up-and-coming indie games to pick up. Maybe you were a fan of the “Hotline Miami” games and couldn’t wait for Devolver Digital’s newest production. Or maybe you are entirely innocent — as I was — and have no idea what this article is about. And if that’s the case, get ready, because you’re in for a treat.
In “Ape Out,” you play as an orange gorilla escaping from captivity as hundreds of soldiers armed to the teeth with pistols, shotguns, snipers, flamethrowers and missile launchers try to stop your rampage. The game is styled as a top-down beat ‘em up game and features nonstop graphic violence as you throw these bad guys around. It’s a fast-paced, bloody experience with challenging puzzles and a surprisingly well thought out narrative underlying all of the game’s action.
Gabe Cuzzillo created the vast majority of “Ape Out” as its sole designer with help from artist Bennett Foddy and composer Matt Boch. It has been in production since 2016 and was only just released Feb. 28.
“Ape Out” shows off a beautifully unique take on top-down gameplay. Walls rise up beyond the camera’s frame to block off adjacent rooms, the procedurally generated levels shimmer with an animated cut paper art style and all the action is incredibly bright and colorful. The result is unique, beautiful and builds upon a growing trend of video games as a new media for art.
The gameplay mirrors that minimalist, elegant art style. As a gorilla, the only actions possible are to throw and to grab. But these simple controls lead to surprisingly complex and tactical gameplay. You can throw enemies into walls or into one another, hold them to shield yourself, grab them and aim their next few bullets into their teammates or throw them out windows and into explosive barrels. With overwhelming numbers of enemies, the key to surviving is to chain these actions together in just the right order to destroy everyone in your way. Meanwhile, the levels reset and change with each death to make every playthrough uniquely challenging and difficult.
Another key element of this fantastic game is its gripping sound design. The core soundtrack of the game is a jazzy drum freestyle that races along at the same breakneck pace as the gameplay. Cymbals clash every time an enemy slams into a wall while the sounds of gunshots blend perfectly with the music. The music and gameplay interweave incredibly and play off of one another to create a gripping and dynamic experience for the player.
“Ape Out” satisfies with its gameplay, its visuals and its audio alike. Everything comes together elegantly to create a single cohesive masterpiece that just feels amazing to play. If you are open to the violent content of the game, I strongly recommend giving this game a shot. The concept is a bit simple and the gameplay becomes repetitive after a couple of levels, but for the most part, the it feels very well paced. The game still suffers from a few bugs even after these first weeks post-release. My game froze several times upon closing out of the application on my PC. But the addictive mechanics and fascinating aesthetics are well worth the $15 price tag.