Reviewed by minusthebrant
- Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Release Date: 28/2/2019
- Price: £13.49/$14.99
- Review code provided by Devolver Digital
One of the first things I noticed while playing developer Gabe Cuzzillo’s and Devolver Digital crazy title Ape Out was how, in many ways, it was more of a rhythm game than an action title. It’s a weird combination of Hotline Miami meets Planet of the Apes, with an addicting gameplay loop, infectious jazz soundtrack, and wholly unique art style. The bold colors and dynamically changing soundtrack make this a title you do not want to miss for your Nintendo Switch.
At its surface, Ape Out is a very straightforward and simple title. There is no story and really only has about three actions: running, pushing, and grabbing. The whole premise is that you play as a gorilla that’s been caught by scientists and simply wants to escape.
You control the movement of the gorilla with the analog stick and are able to grab or push enemies with a push of the shoulder button. Although the controls may be too simplified, they lend to the quick pick-up-and-play nature of Ape Out. While the controls may be simple, this doesn’t mean the actual gameplay is easy because, let me tell you, Ape Out can be extremely challenging.
The difficulty curve starts off low, but skews upwards as you progress through each of the levels. Every one of these levels changes up the environment and enemy type, thus adding some variety to the simple gameplay and increasing the difficulty. For example, early sections may have you just running through a maze in a lab with the biggest obstacle being ordinary gunmen. However, later on these gunmen will have machine guns, flamethrowers, and even bombs, all inside a destructible environment that can hurt you. It certainly pushes you to be aware of your surroundings on top of just avoiding the gunmen.
As the gorilla, you’ll run through tight space hallways and large open areas avoiding the ever encroaching gunmen, attacking or even grabbing them to use them as a shield. Controls are mostly tight, but there were a few moments where I felt I should have been able to grab an enemy only to unexpectedly miss and get hurt. Luckily, this wasn’t a common occurrence though, and for the most part I had a great time controlling the ape.
Go nuts, go ape!!
In total, there are four albums to play through and you can think of them as worlds containing sections of a level all within one environment. I was able to beat the entirety of the main game within a handful of hours, but ultimately your gameplay length with vary depending on how many times you die while playing. As for post-game content, you can take on the harder versions of each album, replay the previous levels since the layouts keep changing, and even unlock a post-game section with an interesting twist on the gameplay.
Visually, Ape Out’s graphics look plain, but have a color contrast that helps elements pop despite basic looking visuals. The art style fleshes out as you progress through each of the four level albums. Some sections will have you wandering in the dark with only the light of the enemy’s gun guiding you towards the exit. Other instances will have enemies with tranquilizers that completely distort your vision. One thing to keep in mind is if you’re a gamer that has problems with flashing lights in games, Ape Out has a few instances where it can get intense.
If you only saw the gameplay you probably wouldn’t expect the background music for Ape Out to be anything special. It’s definitely unique, but the dynamic jazz soundtrack actually works with the gameplay. The music syncs up with the actions of the gorilla, making them feel much more impactful with every punch and grab. I loved how it was implemented and was definitely the highlight of the title never feeling like it overstayed its welcome. In a game about completely aping out, the sound design was also a thing of beauty. It was the right amount of adrenaline pumping to energize your pissed off gorilla.
Overall, Ape Out isn’t a flashy AAA game with a deep story and realistic visuals, but thankfully it forgoes all of that for something much more special and rewarding. It’s a simple top-down title with an easy to understand premise that works great as a pick-up-and-play game. I felt like I was playing the most classic form of a video game to date and one that comes highly recommended. The dynamic jazz soundtrack, along with the abstract visuals, mesh together incredibly well to make something that stands out and has the addictive gameplay to back it up.
- Infectious jazz soundtrack
- Colorful, abstract graphics
- Fun Gameplay
- Lack of replayability
- Clunky controls occasionally
Ape Out is for all of us who long for something more in the video game medium. Highly Recommended.