Ape Out

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Title: Ape Out
Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Website: https://www.devolverdigital.com/games/view/ape-out
Genre: Adventure, Action, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: 16
Release Date: 28/02/19
Price: £13.49 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers say

Ape Out is a wildly intense and colorfully stylized smash ‘em up about primal escape, rhythmic violence, and frenetic jazz. Build up nearly unstoppable momentum and use your captors as both weapons and shields to crush everyone on your procedurally generated path to freedom.

Stylish Escape: Embrace bold colors and a dazzling perspective as you rush through tight corridors, open areas, and twisting labyrinths on a mad dash for freedom. Overcome all manner of human opposition, nefarious traps, and breakable obstacles to find each exit and escape captivity.

Grab and Smash: Unleash your primal instincts and incredible strength to overpower your captors. Hold them steady to create a human shield, smash their feeble bodies into walls, or throw one into another in a violent explosion of humanity.

Dynamic Soundtrack: Find your rhythm in the chaos as a dynamic soundtrack of drums, cymbals, and decapitations drive the action to the edge of mayhem.

Introduction

Since opening its doors in 2009, publisher Devolver Digital has continued to back small-scale developers and release a range of high-quality titles. With a library that includes Indie starlets such as The Messenger, Gris and Enter the Gungeon, Devolver has earned its respect throughout the gaming community.

Developed by Gabe Cuzzillo, Bennett Foddy and Matt Boch, Ape Out is the latest addition to Devolver’s catalogue. The premise of the game is simple; you are an ape trying to escape the clutches of human society and live out your days in your natural habitat. What ensues is a cathartic expression of colour, sound and dynamic gameplay.

Looks and Sounds

Ape Out’s visuals ooze style. Bold colours combine with stark graphics to create a stunning display that feels reminiscent of a Saul Bass poster. Defeating enemies adds dramatic blood spatter to your canvas and marks the trail of destruction left in your wake. When alarms are raised, the screen fills with a deep red; breaking electrical units, on the other hand, results in enemies becoming engulfed in darkness. This clever use of colour emphasises the gameplay and leaves Ape Out feeling fresh, modern and impressively original.

To say that Ape Out’s graphics are not its best feature is a true testament to the quality of its audio design. The procedurally generated, percussion-based jazz soundtrack reacts to what is happening in real time and stands amongst my favourite scores in recent memory. Enemy deaths are met with powerful cymbal crashes, and tearing through the environment at breakneck speeds is akin to Andrew Neyman’s brutal drum performance in Whiplash.

The music is played across four unique ‘albums’, each representing a different scenario from which you have to escape. The tracks within these albums then correspond to the levels within each scenario. This approach adds a modern touch to the overall sound design and keeps the soundtrack from ever feeling repetitive. From military drum rolls to utterly frantic percussion beats, Ape Out should be played with the volume pumped up. The music playing over the credit screen is also so incredible that I encourage anyone to play this game to completion.

Gameplay and Replayability

Much like Hotline Miami (also from Devolver Digital), Ape Out combines top-down perspective with brutal rampaging. While navigating through each procedurally-generated level, the shoulder buttons are used to attack enemies, either by holding them up as shields, pushing them into walls or, even better, each other. On occasion, I had issues with the accuracy of this, as you have to be very precise. I’ve always had difficulty with controls on the Switch, so maybe it’s just me. Due to the procedural nature, enemy location is randomised and ultimately stops you from memorising more accessible routes.

When it comes to difficulty, Ape Out doesn’t pull any punches. Once you’ve grasped the controls, the difficulty ramps up enormously and enemies litter each stage. At times, this can feel overwhelming, and Ape Out becomes so challenging that each level is merely about survival rather than obliterating everyone in your path. The timing of the gameplay is very well designed, giving you just enough time to beeline it to an enemy before they open fire. If they do manage to fire, you go down quickly. One or two hits results in a trail of blood following your every step; three hits and you’re out. New mechanics are introduced periodically and keep the gameplay feeling fresh. Being hit with a flamethrower, for example, sets you on fire and forces enemies to flee in terror.

My one issue with Ape Out is that it is so short. Having just four albums/scenarios to complete means that a near faultless run could be achieved in around an hour, and I would have loved more environments to bulldoze my way through. Upon completing the four albums, Hard Mode is unlocked. I found the later stages of the game a challenge and, by comparison, Hard Mode is utterly insane – this is not one for the fainthearted!

Arcade Mode also offers solid replayability, despite it covering the same four stages as the main campaign. In this mode, you are timed and scored on the number of deaths achieved and how quickly you can complete a level. Death results in restarting the album and those who love the thrill of chasing a high score will have a great time attempting Arcade Mode.

Conclusion

Ape Out’s focus of mindlessly ploughing through enemies as you navigate each level is both chaotic and exhilarating. The percussion-heavy soundtrack which reacts to enemy deaths in real time is a masterpiece of audio design and will stay with me long after completing the game. Ape Out’s visuals are also a triumph and accompany the music perfectly. Although my time with Ape Out was brief, it was one hell of a ride, and I will keep my fingers crossed that the developers release more content in the future. Again, Devolver Digital has proved their worth in showcasing an indie classic.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Ape Out at the Nintendo eShop at the following link,
https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Ape-Out-1504022.html#Overview

About Tim Reid

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