Release Date: 28th February 2019
Size: 1987.05MB on Switch
Genre: Beat ‘em Up
Developed by Gabe Cuzzillo
Published by Devolver Digital
Reviewed on Switch; Also available on PC.
When a movie director and his team traveled to the fabled Skull Island they were unsure of what they would find. Could the rumours be real or was it all just a combination of folklore and the ramblings of drunken sailors? To their surprise and horror, it’s all true.
As they behold the terrifying figure of the gigantic great ape, known to the indigenous tribes as Kong, they devise a plan to capture the beast and bring him before the eyes of the world. Though many of the crew’s lives are lost in the endeavour, the behemoth is chained and caged before the might of man.
Once brought back to the mainland, however, a bizarre biological reaction befalls Kong. It’s as if the alien environment he now finds himself in is altering his very DNA.
The Eighth Wonder of the World begins to shrink rapidly, turning from a once monstrous being to a more conventionally sized 350lb gorilla. Confused and furious, Kong yearns to return to his island home and regain his size and strength and so sets forth on his mission by busting out of his cell, which is where our game begins; KING KONG 2: APE OUT!
Oh, and his fur turned ginger too!
Okay, none of that is true…
…This is not a game about plot and character development, this is all about style and gameplay and in that regards this title smashes it out of the park with a big hairy fist. It’s a top-down beat’em, with twin-stick shooter controls, that has you lead your muscle bound ape out of his cage, taking out his captors and trying to escape the current location. The levels are procedurally generated so each attempt is a new experience, giving you no chance to plan your route and memorize enemy locations like you could in the Hotline Miami titles.
Each run is a test of your fight or fly responses as charging into a room, only to be faced with a platoon of armed goons waiting to take you out, will flick your brain one of two ways; “Crap! I’ve got to get out of here” or “KILL EM ALL!”. Either option is viable as, while it only takes 3 shots to down your orange simian (or one explosive), your strength and speed can get you out of some expectedly inescapable spots. Your “strawberry blonde” brute can punch enemies across the room (splatting them against nearby walls), grab one and use him as a human shield (some will even do you the kind favour of firing off their guns when you do) or maybe you just want to throw them at each other, taking two out at once. However, you choose to do it, your goal is to work your way from one side of the screen to the other, through a labyrinth of rooms, hallways and gun-toting bad guys without ending up as a rug in some guy’s lodge.
The main game is made up of 4 albums (more on that later) which represent a different environment. Each album contains 8 tracks (read “levels”), and then there is a glorious bonus level at the end that I won’t spoil here. While saying there are 33 levels might not sound like all that much, remembering that these are randomized, procedurally generated, it means there is a whole lot of fun to be had here.
For the masochists among you, there is a hard difficulty mode which ups the speed and number of enemies. If that’s still not enough challenge, the game also has an Arcade Mode. Here they add a time limit to each level, which had me thinking “how is that even possible?” at several points. To add further insult to injury, if you die, you don’t just restart the level you are on, oh no. You go right back to the beginning of the “Album” select to start again.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Ape Out has a beautifully simple art style which, while looking like paper cutouts in screenshots, is smoothly animated. The bright, bold colours keep what can be a very hectic situation still clear to follow. Plus there are numerous colour alterations and artistic flashes throughout the game, each tied to certain unique situations which keep the game from every being sterile. From bloodstains through explosions, to the how the title of each new level is shown, Ape Out has a visual pop that’s a joy to look at and shows care in its design.
As mentioned previously, the game’s worlds are split into Albums and the level names are the track listings. Why? you may ask… I have no idea because it sure doesn’t seem to be plot related but the most obvious reason is because the game’s music is such a key component to the experience.
Considering this is a game about a gorilla pummelling people into a crimson stain, the Jazz soundtrack that accompanies your adventure works amazingly well. This is in part due to the music dynamically reacting to what you are doing. Punch a soldier in the face and it’s highlighted with a crash of a cymbal. As the action gets more frantic, so does the soundtrack, only calming down once you’re in the clear…or dead. It really adds drama and impact to everything on screen.
The game’s strength is hidden in its simplicity. A top down beat’em, with low detailed graphics and a jazz soundtrack may not sound like much on paper, but Ape Out is so much more than the sum of its parts.
While each element may seem basic, these are each done exceptionally well with creative flair and blend together perfectly. The sense of immense power your character gives you is well balanced with those moments of hopeless panic as you’re ridiculously outnumbered. Yeah, you’re a legitimate bad ass but if you don’t play smart and get too cocky, you won’t last very long. Not that it really matters if you fail, as APE OUT has the “just one more go” brain worm that will keep you coming back for more. It’s APEsolutely brilliant! …Sorry.
- The blend of Jazz and Gorilla violence is wonderfully bizarre
- Procedurally generated levels give infinite replay value
- Punching a guy out of an office window never gets old
- I’m struggling to think of one...
- It’s not on PS4 or Xbox One yet (there we go)