Ape Out Review – A jazz-fuelled riot

Platforms:
PCNintendo Switch
Released:
March 1, 2019
Publisher:
Devolver Digital
Developer:
Gabe Cuzzillo, Bennett Foddy, Matt Boch

Review

Devolver Digital have a great track record when it comes to games; From fast-paced action thrillers like Hotline Miami and Mother Russia Bleeds, to cerebral experiences like The Talos Principle and Always Sometimes Monsters. Each release they’ve published has been an exercise in polished gameplay, visual design, and fun. Ape Out is no exception.

Created by first time developer, Greg Cuzzillo, in conjunction with industry pros Matt Boch and Bennett Foddy, Ape Out is a game with a simple premise; Its about an Ape that wants out. But within this simple, and seemingly narrow concept, Ape Out manages to carve out an expanse full of fun, minimalist gameplay.

You play as the titular Ape as you make your way through a variety of unique locations, each comprised of eight levels. Your goal is to make your way through each level till you reach the end, causing chaos along the way. You’ll be dodging armed guards, office workers, and SWAT teams as you make your escape, tossing around enemies like gore filled balloons. Arcade mode adds to the fun by assigning a score to your rampage.

This is helped by a simple and easy to understand control scheme. There are only three inputs; push, grab and move. This uncomplicates things and helps with the flow of gameplay. You’ll soon find yourself in a rhythm comprised of grabbing, pushing and throwing your captors, giggling as they explode on impact, as you make your way around the winding labyrinthine-like levels.

The game is great for short bursts of play. its incredible easy to come to grips with the controls and play style. After only 30 seconds I had a grasp for the feel of it and found myself coming back throughout the week. I would pick it up whenever I had some spare time and would instantly find myself engrossed.

The levels are procedurally generated. This makes memorisation impossible, as while some levels will have certain beats, you never know exactly what’s around the corner. It’s both ingenious and massively frustrating, adding to the frantic feel of the game. You don’t learn the map layout until after you’ve died. It becomes upsetting to see that if you had just taken a right instead of a left, you could have been on your way to freedom.

You start to feel claustrophobic and trapped, as you make your way through the maze. Around any corner could be a guard lining their shot to take you down. Do you back track and try another path, or do you push through and hope there aren’t seven more goons with guns standing just out of sight? It all serves to put you in the headspace of the hairy silent protagonist.

“You wouldn’t initially think that gorillas and jazz would go well together but this game will gladly prove you wrong.”

The visuals, like the gameplay, are minimalist. Everything is rendered in a top-down perspective with flat, vibrant colours. everything looks like it’s made from paper, and it lends the pseudo 2D graphics an air of charm. There’s something about watching cartoony violence rendered with such simple graphics that can’t help but put a smile on my face.

The colour palette shifts at pivotal moments. Alarms will start blaring and the screen will be awash with reds and purples. Or the lights will go out and everything will be black and white. These shifts play into the chaos, helping to maintain the hectic energy that the game does so well.

Matt Boch’s beautiful sound work is a highlight for the game. Each level is accompanied with smooth jazz acoustics that accentuate the chaos on screen. Every time you throw or push one of the goons, its accentuated by a symbol crash or trumpet blow, with the same happening every time your shot. You wouldn’t initially think that gorilla s and jazz would go well together but this game will gladly prove you wrong.

Monkey Powered Jazz Machine

Overall Ape Out was a fun experience. It was frantic and frustrating in some areas, but that what a game like this should be. It holds your attention and challenges you to push past its challenges. Often, I would get stuck on a level, leave, and then come back hours latter and tackle it with renewed vigour. Its pick up and play action at is finest.

For his first outing, Greg Cuzzillo has knocked it out of the park, and I’d be interested to see what the new kid on the block does next.