By Isaac Espinosa
Trapped in a facility filled with armed humans, a lone Ape has only one option – escape. Ape Out is an indie game developed by New York City-based Gabe Cuzzillo and published on the Nintendo Switch and PC by Devolver Digital. Ape Out tells the story of a strong simian, yearning for his freedom and stopping at nothing to get it back from the armed humans who hold him captive. As you start, you immediately know it’s time to unleash your inner primate and ape out!
The tale begins with the Ape trapped in a cage, and the level begins as the player breaks free from the cell. Each of the worlds, which the game calls “discs,” has a different environment through which the player will have to escort the Ape. And now, having freed the Ape from his cage, it’s up to the player to unleash mayhem on the humans to escape and release the Ape back into the wild where he belongs. The enemies in each world use basic weapons – rifles, shotguns and grenades – and they don’t vary much. The use the most basic of weapons and each of the three weapon types will appear in every world.
Ape Out is a smash ‘em up game, and its gameplay is simple. You’re able to punch and grab as the Ape. When you encounter enemies, you can either wreck them into pieces across the floor, seize and hold them as your shield, or even use them as projectiles. Each disc follows the structure of getting through a maze-like level and then completing eight different chapters in order to reach the goal. The route differs from world to world. In one, you escape from a pretty standard facility with guards, and metal doors that block your path. In another, you race down the stairs of a 30-floor building to reach the bottom. All the worlds have their own aesthetics, such as the color scheme, that make them unique. Examples of these color schemes include using a blaring red color to signify that an alarm has just gone off, or using that different colors to signify blood, having different colors of blood for the Ape and your human enemies.
The soundtrack of Ape Out helps to ratchet up the chaos and tension. Intense drum beats signify escalating through the levels, and cymbals convey action or moments that are worthy of attention, as when you enter a new chapter, kill an enemy, or die. Thus, the music, while not as bombastic as that of some other indie titles, very much brings the player into the mood. With every movement and action, the music complements the flow and allows for true immersion into the game.
All in all, Ape Out is a fun and addictive game that has a tension and a sense of sheer power that’s unusual in an indie game. It’s sure to bring out the primal instinct in anyone who plays it.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.