This past week I sat down and played Ape Out, a game I had been wanting to play since it was released this past February. I absolutely love playing this game! It’s a vivid, violent, rhythmic smash ’em up that plays like something you could have found years ago in the local arcade but with a 70’s acid jazz kind of vibe to it. A game showcasing video games as an art form. From the second you break out of your cage and begin obliterating the guards watching over you, I knew I was in for an interesting ride.
The objective in Ape Out is simple: make your way from Point A to Point B. The gameplay and controls are simple, but extremely satisfying as you control an APE trying to ESCAPE(NOT to be confused with a PS1 title involving primates 😉 ) from his cage and make your way through the procedurally-generated levels, returning to the wild. As stated, the controls are simple: run, punch, and grab. You are vastly outnumbered by armed guards trying to take you down, and to survive you will need to make an instant decision of simply running past an unsuspecting guard or splattering against the wall. You are able to grab the guards and doors in your way and forcefully propel them at other surrounding enemies; this can also be a critical decision as quickly grabbing an enemy and using them to shield yourself from the barrage of bullets before hurling them at an enemy as if they are being shot out of a cannon…you can even pick up the limbs of the obliterated enemies and throw them at others…I enjoyed this greatly(NOT psycho) 😀
Ape Out is similar to Hotline Miami: utilizing a top-down camera angle, over-the-top stylized violence, and an explosion of colors. In Ape Out however, the top-down camera has been zoomed in, adding an increased sense of caution as you never know who is just around the next corner. There is also an absence of neon lighting and DeLoreans in Ape Out…
The sound design and visuals of this game are one of the more unique characteristics of the game; kind of a Miles Davis 1970’s jazz pastiche that I absolutely freaking love! The graphics are slightly grainy with a warmth around the edges of the characters and objects that exude a visual equivalent of the sound of a vinyl record being played. The colors in the game range from dark, smoky hues of black and gray contrasted by bright bold shades of red or orange. The dynamic contrast in colors is really brought out when you slam a guard into a nearby wall or post and the resulting blood red explosion is a bit like watching fireworks in the night sky. Other levels also shroud the environment in black that is disrupted by only the guards’ flashlights and a few dashes of purple around the level. The entire 3rd album( the game consists of four “albums” which contain eight levels each) – Fugue is washed in a completely crimson and orange backdrop that finds you trying to find your way across a desolate wasteland resembling a napalm-devastated Vietnam battleground. I haven’t even mentioned the music yet…the music in Ape Out is phenomenal! Each level or ALBUM rather, is set to a riveting drum solo whose rhythm mirrors yours as you progress through the level and even accents your very movements. You running down an empty hallway is accompanied by a steady snare drum roll while every time you pummel an enemy the music will add a cymbal crash, along with anytime you break through a wall; this adds a very stylish rhythmic element to the gameplay that is an absolute blast to play.
There are four main “albums” to play through in the game – Subject 4, High Rise, Fugue, Adrift – with four levels making up Side A and Side B respectively. Subject 4 begins kicks off your quest for freedom by escaping from research facility with the first couple levels serving as a tutorial of sorts as you get adjusted to moving around as a gigantic primate. High Rise takes place in a 32-story office building; making your way from stairwell to stairwell through a labyrinth of closets and cubicles before making a mad dash to the exit from the crowded lobby at the bottom. Fugue is a bit more difficult as the “album cover” would imply with a picture of a lit match – fire and lots of it. You cross what appears to be shipping warehouses full of oil drums that if anything OR anyone is driven into them with the force of an angry gorilla it will cause them to burst into a giant ball of flames; a new enemy brandishing a flamethrower pack is also introduced at this time. Fugue is probably the most memorable( and most difficult) level as the latter half( Side B) takes place outdoors in a scorched area surrounded by wire fence while firebombs are being dropped from the sky. The orange and red colors of the levels along with the stark snare drum march seemed to be a bit of an allusion to the Vietnam War. I couldn’t help but think of Lt. Kilgore of Apocalypse Now during this – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” The final album – Adrift takes place on a freight tanker on the open seas where you navigate your way through around the levels of the tanker before finally making your way to freedom.
After clearing each of the four albums you can choose the option to now play the game on Harder difficulty; there is also Arcade Mode where you can try to rack up the highest score possible while clearing the levels in the least amount of time and deaths. I enjoyed this game so much that once I cleared the albums I turned around and started the play through them again, this time striving for shorter completion time and fewer deaths. There are no exact same runs through the levels, as the paths through the maze-like levels as well as enemy placement are all procedurally-generated; you thought that same enemy with the explosives was just around the corner only to find out THIS time it’s several enemies with shotguns or none at all…at least until you round the next corner. Every time you take a hit, you will leave a trail of blood behind you for the guards to follow; after three hits you’re dead and will have to start the level over again.
Violence, jazz, and apes….awesome, right? Ape Out is available on PC and Switch and is a fantastic game that I very highly recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different to play. Finally…justice for Harambe! 😀
What games have you been playing recently or what games are you most looking forward to hearing about at E3 this week? I plan on putting up another post with my thoughts about all the upcoming announcements after E3.
Keep on playing…