I remember playing the demo for Ape Out when it released back in 2017. Taking on the role of various apes, players would smash and grab their way through the flat, colorful worlds. Along the way, they were forced to evade and destroy hapless zoo employees and research scientists. All this, set to a dynamic jazz soundtrack.
The premise of an escaped gorilla crushing whatever got in their way, each kill punctuated by a cymbal crash, had me pausing and restarting the demo more than a few times.
News since 2017 had been sparse and I had forgotten about the game. At least, until it surprisingly released 10 days ago. It was worth the wait.
Fun is a major factor in a game like Ape Out. It’s fast paced, twitchy action where two buttons spell death for all your enemies. However, what takes that fun gameplay and gives players a continued sense of enjoyment comes down to the cooperative effort between the soundtrack and art direction.
All That Jazz
Ape Out features a dynamic soundtrack. Your actions in game share a “call and response” relationship with the music. Let’s say you smash a guy against a wall. This might trigger a massive crashing sound from the percussion. Grabbing a guy with an assault rifle and turning him on his friends could set off a dozen little snare drum rolls as the bullets fly.
There’s an unmatched sound of anguish to the game. All of the noise and chaos of a rampaging monkey overlaid with reactive background music creates a furious, but simultaneously melancholic mood.
When you do something cool in a game, the sound effect associated with your action is one of the ways you’re rewarded. Hearing this buzzing swarm of wild jazz drums as you blitz through the level at the speed of ape is an excellent feeling. It adds weightiness to your actions that reminds me of a fighting game when the hits sound just right. This seemingly little detail is a huge part of Ape Out‘s charm.
Lights, Camera, Action!
More understated, but not any less important are the graphics. Ape Out has a golden age of Hollywood look to its visuals, with a boldness that reminds me of old time movie posters. While on the surface it’s a simple look, the use of color keeps things incredibly fresh.
Ape Out‘s seamless graphical style of minimalist art mixed with loud colors causes everything to just pop. It’s almost like watching a living drawing at times, basic but incredibly effective.
This might have resulted in things looking samey. Instead, once you factor in the cartoonish explosion of blood on every kill, complemented by the whiplash drums, the game feels just as dynamic as the soundtrack accompanying it.
Ape Out would have made for a rip roaring time no matter what. Featuring four action packed episodes and a clever epilogue, the game runs about two hours in total. However, its unabashed sense of cool is what takes it to that next level. It’s a series of procedurally generated sequences of mayhem, brutal but beautiful, and the best game where you get to play as a gorilla since King Kong 2.