The Great EscApe
Ape Out is a slew of blood, it’s a primal release, a lesson in simplicity and substance over hollow breadth. It is one of the most wonderfully unique games I have ever played. You play as a sole ape trying to flee from your captors through randomly generated levels consisting of: a jungle facility, a high-rise office building, a military encampment, and an industrial cargo ship. Through all these levels the idea stays the same. You are an ape being held captive, and you are to work your way through 8 different zones until you reach the exit, forcefully smearing armed guards across the canvas as you go.
At the core of Ape Out is its difficulty. Despite being a lumbering ape, you can only take two bullets, after that the next one will put you down. Health is only regained once you reach a new zone, so you can’t just sprint around squaring up against enemies hoping to take them all out, a tactful approach is key; you can dodge bullets by hiding behind walls. Enemies can be grabbed and used as meat shields, and you can even use their weapons against their peers. Grab an enemy before they fire and they’ll still do so, but this time the gun will be pointed in a direction of your choosing.
…One of the most wonderfully unique games I have ever played.
Though the aiming isn’t very precise, it still allows you to get some range on your enemies, grabbing the first shooter you see, using their weapon, and then using them to take the brunt of the next shot fired in your direction. Better still, should you be so inclined, you can throw the enemy you’re holding in the direction of another, taking them both out of play in one fell swoop. This all means you have options. If you see a group of enemies you could try to get messy and take them all out with fisticuffs, or play it smart and use the tools at your disposal.
It keeps gameplay interesting and makes you feel like more than a mindless ape, you feel powerful. You have a goal, and no man will stand in your way. The satisfaction given from lobbing a gunman into a wall or foe is second to none, and makes you feel like a glass cannon because that is essentially what you are.
There’s a fair amount of variety in gameplay; different levels offer different challenges, be it the potential to fall from the high-rise office space, the explosive barrels of the military camp, or the differing enemy types. The first of the four levels is fairly standard, only really offering explosive enemies to spice things up. It isn’t until the high-rise that things get really interesting, with the addition of snipers looking to slot you from a far off building, out of sight but very much in mind. More enemy types come into play as you progress, giving each of the levels a distinctive feel.
You won’t last long unless you play it fast and smart.
Each zone can also differ greatly within each level. Areas can widen into large empty spaces, making it open season on you, and you won’t last long unless you play it fast and smart. There are a few zones where the lights go out and enemies have a tougher time spotting you, their cones of vision roughly outlined by the shine of their flashlights. There are also a few bonus modes, including the “Harder” mode which takes place on the same levels but, from what I could tell, doesn’t do much to up the challenge as far as I can tell.
Levels are somewhat randomly generated, but they still have a structure. An area designed to have narrow halls to navigate will always present itself as such, but the layout of those corridors will change each time you respawn. This adds greatly to the replayability of the game, making it easier to try, try, and try again on those tougher levels.
Each level is given a unique color palette to reflect the environment.
The whole game is painted in a mess of motional paint, giving it a unique style to set it apart from other games you may have played. Each level is given a unique color palette to reflect the environment, only being altered on occasion to reflect a change in the environment or atmosphere with examples such as the lights being turned off and the building being shrouded in darkness, a wash of black and purple, with the only brightness coming from the enemies’ flashlights, or alarms blaring a deep red, warning guards of your escape.
The art is stylish and memorable. You could easily pick this monkey out of a lineup. The style is also carried through the death screen (which you will soon become familiar with), showing you a map of the zone and the path you took as well as how far you made it, over bold text reminding you of your current status: “DEAD”.
One part of the game’s style I found especially unique is that the levels are shown in the form of albums. Each of the 4 settings being their own separate albums, and their respective zones being the 8 tracks on each. It’s a fun and stylish way to represent the game’s structure, and it fits fantastically well with the thing that binds the whole experience together; the music.
Ape Out features a nifty reactive music system. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of drum beats, with the occasional brass instrument or some other wacky musical apparatus. The music is themed for each level but will become slow in quiet moments, before suddenly ramping up when conflict begins to what can only be described as one of Keith Moon’s drum solos from The Who.
The music ties the experience together…
It ramps up the intensity for sure, and the satisfaction given from mauling an enemy is amplified by the reactive soundtrack, offering a cymbal crash or sometimes a thud when you throw an enemy into a wall. The music ties the experience together and makes it an intense thrill, and a joy to play.
Ape Out is a satisfying joy ride that can act as a stress reliever at a moment’s notice. It hits all the chords of a power fantasy while still offering an intense challenge. There’s a fair offering of content that is amplified by the difficulty, meaning you’ll spend a decent amount of time redoing the same levels while never growing bored. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, so go bananas, and ape out.
Yes, if you:
- Need to relieve some stress
- Enjoy challenging gameplay
- Are looking for something replayable in short bursts
- Want a unique experience
No, if you:
- Don’t like difficult games
- Need a story hook
- Want complex gameplay design
Ape Out was released on February 28, 2019 and is available on PC and the Nintendo Switch at an MSRP of $14.99