Ape Out is a top-down action game developed by Gabe Cuzzillo, Matt Boch, and Bennet Foddy, who you might know from 2008’s QWOP and 2017’s Getting Over it with Bennet Foddy. In Ape Out, you play as an ape who has to escape from various locations, all while being hunted by humans who will stop at nothing to stop you from escaping.
Ape Out‘s gameplay is simple: you play as an ape that can grab and push various objects–this is your main mode of defense or offense, as you can grab and throw enemies, and even wield their appendages as weapons. You can grab certain doors (with effort) which then can be used as a shield against projectiles, which you can toss into enemies to squash them. Despite being a fast, formidable ape, it only takes three hits to kill you. Getting shot is quit easy when you’re in line of sight of the gun wielding enemies, which makes it feel like you have few options–but clever apes can use their environment–and enemies–to their advantage.
When you grab an enemy, they will desperately let off a shot from their weapon, which you can use to dispatch other foes. Rifle, pistol, shotgun, and rocket launcher-wielding enemies will fire off one shot, while flamethrower and machine gun enemies will hold down the trigger for significantly longer, meaning you can eliminate more enemies with them. They also act as human shields, with bullet-proof wearing enemies taking more shots before death, adding a layer of strategy that belies its simple exterior. You can toss people with quite amount of force, instantly dashing them against walls, leaving bloodstains and gore behind. Tossing smaller enemies into larger enemies isn’t always fatal, and merely stuns them. Enemies like the flamethrower and bomb thrower burst into balls of fire or explode when they hit an object, which you can strategically use to your advantage. Successfully grabbing, blasting, and smashing several enemies in a row without taking damage gives me the same feeling as getting the perfect combo in Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct–it’s extremely satisfying.
While I may be gushing about its gameplay, the music and style of Ape Out are what really make it stand out from the crowd. The music consists entirely of jazz-style percussion, with every enemy’s death accompanied by the clash of a cymbal. It adds to the frantic feeling of Ape Out, and when those cymbals just happen to go along to the music, it’s a wholly unique experience. Ape Out’s music definitely makes the gameplay experience better, with its frenetic, almost free-style beat matching perfectly with the quick, brutal action that Ape Out throws you into with each level.
Ape Out has a simple art style, with every character and object being a single color per layer. Your Ape is usually orange, but if an alarm sounds or the lights go out, the color can change to either white or purple. Ape Out is divided into four “albums” with each album being further divided into smaller levels which are portrayed as songs within the album. Each album takes you to a different area, including a freighter, and a laboratory, with each sub-level opening with a Saul Bass inspired title font. You also have the option to play on a harder difficulty, and Arcade mode, where you have a limited amount of time to complete each level, and you gain bonus time and points for things like getting kills, and completing a level unscathed.
Ape Out‘s style, soundtrack, and focus on brutal close-quarters combat makes it a standout. Deceptively simple, Ape Out is quite strategic, often brutal, and extremely fun. Its hard mode and arcade modes are purpose-built for those of us who are gluttons for punishment, and increase its replayability. Ape Out is available on Nintendo Switch and Windows.
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