Sometimes a game comes out of nowhere and surprises you with it’s sheer playability, intelligent design and dynamic systems, at PAX East that game for me was Ape Out by Gabe Cuzzillo and published by Devolver Digital. I was walking through their booth looking at other games and Ape Out kept grabbing my attention. Featured a good deal of the time on their large screens it attracted constant crowds and people lining up to try it. Ape Out is a simple game at face value but the graphical style, dynamic musical beats and striking animation made this a game I came back to multiple times despite the hundreds of other options on the show floor.
At it’s heart it is a frantic smash ‘em up about primal escape, rhythmic violence, and frenetic jazz that has you playing an Ape escaping from some sort of facility full of guards. Each level is procedurally generated meaning you will never escape the same way and guards roam the halls trying to stop you. Thankfully you are a massive Ape and can grab, through and smash everyone you meet, take too much damage though and the level will end. The game does have numbered levels and if you fail on level 2 or 3 as an example you continue from the start of the level you died on, so at least the game does not push you right back to the start.
Playing it is incredibly simple, you move with the left stick and smash or grab your enemies, grabbed items or enemies can be thrown against walls or at other enemies. It is a basic premise, but there is a lot of skill and quick reflexes required to navigate the levels with minimal damage. As you progress, new and deadlier enemies are added such as fire throwing ones or machine gun units, but even these can be used to great advantage if they are grabbed and aimed towards other enemies. To not overpower the grab the Ape’s normally fast speed is reduced greatly when it is holding something.
Ape Out is beautiful both visually and aurally, with a simple color palette and plain textures the game still stands out in a striking way. The audio is nearly addictive to experience with Jazz instruments banging out as you move, hit or grab items, creating a chaotic cacophony of music that blends seamlessly with the action onscreen. The game begs to be experienced, so please check out the video below to see what I am talking about.
Ape Out is a one of a kind game I was not expecting to find, and one that I remember most from PAX East, it may be simple but it is a striking and compelling experience that blends simple visuals, complex audio and addictive gameplay to great effect. What makes the game more impressive is that it was essentially created by one man, Gabe Cuzzillo, who was very humble when I met him and praised what he had created. Ape Out will be available Summer 2017 and a playable trailer is available on Steam right now.