Ape Out is a frenetic beat ’em up game released last month. It was developed by Gabe Cuzzillo, Bennett Fody, and Matt Boch. Published by Devolver Digital, Ape Out plays like a shmup, despite the protagonist (an ape) not having a weapon. It’s gotten some high praise since releasing, even from us here at Cliqist.
Ape Out has style; it has flair. It has tight gameplay and a bangin’ soundtrack. It’s fun, cool, and also tragic. The narrative of Ape Out is told subtly, and only through visuals. It’s minimal, and easy to miss when you’re concentrating on staying alive and escaping whatever structure you clearly don’t belong in. But if you look close enough, it comes into focus, and starts to look familiar.
(Major Spoilers for Ape Out follow.)
Sticking the Subject
Firstly, the opening chapter, disc 1, is titled “Subject 4.” The cover art features dripping syringes, and one of them is orange. The gorilla protagonist’s blood is also shown as orange. The implication here is that you’re playing as a somehow genetically modified ape. Indeed, the opening screen shows three other seemingly modified apes, subjects 1-3, dead on the floor of their own cages.
What’s another story that features a genetically modified simian who goes on a rampage after getting out of her cage? Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In that film, it was an Alzheimer’s disease cure being tested. The drug raised a chimp’s intelligence and caused a lot of problems. Poor Bright Eyes was shot to death. We’ll come back to that incident in a bit.
After 3 more chapters of top-notch video game, it’s all over. Disc 2 has a nice nod to another misunderstood primate, King Kong, in its title: High Rise. Disc 3 introduces flamethrowers. The last disc takes place on a tanker. The outro to the game is glorious and further enforces the heightened intelligence of the playable character. There’s a lot of good stuff. The kicker, however, comes from the game’s epilogue.
Turning the (Operating) Table
The final chapter in the story, “Break In,” is the opposite of the first chapter. You go back to the original facility you escaped from and fight your way backwards through the level. Once you reach the end, which is, ironically, the beginning, you see the cage out of which you first smashed. Alone among the cells is a much smaller ape.
Remember when I mentioned the incident in Rise of the Planet of the Apes that got Bright Eyes killed? In the movie, you find out afterward that she threw a fit when forced from her cage because she had recently given birth to a child. You can probably see where I’m going with this.
Indeed, I’m saying that the small chimp you find in Ape Out is your child, just like in Rise. Only the game has a happier conclusion should you succeed, as you let the child onto your back and escape yet again. Presumably you start a hyper-intelligent family in the jungle and eventually enslave/kill the human race. See? Happy ending.
In conclusion, Ape Out is a retelling of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I look forward to the sequels where the apes get guns. The Devolver-published My Friend Pedro, which features a character who’s a sentient banana, is scheduled to come out later this year. Consider the implications.