Ape Out is a top-down action game where you play the role of a gorilla attempting to escape captivity. The game is highly stylish, impressively musical, and entertainingly over-the-top with a variety of scenarios that provide constant surprise and fun challenge. The frenetic action of Ape Out mixed with its lively, jazz-inspired style kept me engaged and often blew me away during the short experience from start to finish.
Within my first five minutes of playing Ape Out, I had already understood all of what the game was about. This is because the game’s premise is not only simple, but Ape Out’s simplistic, yet colorful art style and high-energy attitude is immediately noticeable from the get go; and it’s awesome. Violently shoving gunmen as an overpowered gorilla is satisfying due to the impactful feedback of the action. Bodies practically explode as they collide into obstacles and Ape Out’s uniquely flat, color-contrasting style adds exaggeration to the violence. Bursting out of my cage, grabbing an armed guard, and throwing him out of a window before I leap to his partner is about as fun and empowering as it sounds.
At the heart of Ape out is its music. The game’s instrumental free-form jazz is the centerpiece which holds every facet of Ape Out together. With each shove, push, and splat, drums are added to the overlaying soundtrack which makes for an experience that is not only enhanced by the music, but carried by it. At times, it feels like you’re truly involved in the jazz itself. This is an especially fun element of the game because the music of Ape Out is well composed and fun to listen to. Fast drums and frantic jazz accentuate the gameplay experience and add urgency and tension to everything going on. The sound design left me impressed because at any moment I could throw an enemy into a wall and the sound that would play felt like it would naturally fit into the music.
Each of the four stages in the game is represented as a vinyl album with 8 songs, a Side A, and a Side B. This means total, there are about 32 short levels in Ape Out; each with procedurally generated elements to keep runs fresh. Each level in Ape Out feels creative in it’s own right, with title introductions highlighting the key element in the level. The game’s two middle albums however, feel particularly superior than the other two. Then there is my favorite album, which is a journey down a 30 floor skyscraper. This world felt complete with exciting moments, new elements being constantly introduced, and a floor by floor setup that made tracking progress much easier to follow; thus adding tension because at any moment finding a staircase could mean a moment of safety.
Ape out is a wonderfully difficult experience requiring quick thinking along with accurate execution. At times this can become an issue because even though the game is mechanically simple, grabbing an enemy and aiming them in the correct direction as quickly as possible as the game so often requires can be hit or miss. There’s not a precise way of telegraphing which direction you’re aiming, resulting in many missed shots, throws, and deflections. Some levels in the game also ramp the difficulty up in ways that felt slightly uneven. New enemies introduced late in the game felt particularly unfair because of how they utilize fire and explosions which are not only difficult to deal with, but especially frustrating in large doses . Given a slower build toward the end, this ramp could have possibly felt more natural.
Despite my late game qualms, Ape Out is an overall exhilarating experience. From its short beginning to end, its art and animation kept me dazzled as its fast-paced, high energy action kept me engaged. The jazzy style and up-tempo music uplift the unique tone of the game and by the end of my experience, I couldn’t wait to dive back in so I could escape once more.
Ape Out was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.