Review: Ape Out (Switch)

Because Ape Escape was already taken.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 04/03/2019 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gorgeous style; great use of music and theme; fun gameplay
Poison Mushroom for...
Some areas are hard to see in handheld mode; over too quickly

The indie boom has provided the video game industry with some of its most impressive visual achievements. While many AAA titles still strive for hyper realistic graphics, indie releases tend to lean on stylized design, and the variety really benefits the industry as a whole. Ape Out is no exception: the game’s presentation is stylish, it’s slick and it’s just plain gorgeous to look at. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun to play, too.

In Ape Out, you control a gorilla from an overhead perspective as you try to escape from four different areas: a lab, a skyscraper, a war zone and a cargo ship. Of course, getting out of each location isn’t all that simple; increasingly heavily armed guards are ready to kill the creature on sight. You’ll have to avoid guns that spray bullets, explosives and even snipers as you try to get free. The game’s enemies aren’t all that intimidating on their own, but later levels pour on the foes, and players will have to strategize when it comes to fight versus flight. Each chapter provides a new, procedurally generated maze, and the map is only visible as a whole after your ape has been killed. While each maze has a start and end point, the game does give you a lot of freedom in how you make it from point A to point B. There are areas where players can hide, and sometimes taking things slow is the better option.

A degree of stealth plays some part in the proceedings, but your character is far from defenseless. While groups of opponents can give the game a bit of challenge, those same clusters provide the best opportunity for survival, as well. The ZR button allows your ape to throw enemies. Throwing an enemy when nothing is ahead of you will simply stun them, but toss them into a wall or another opponent and the result is an explosion of blood and limbs. Different areas also give your ape more options; in the skyscraper stage, you can toss enemies out of the building and down to a messy fate, while the cargo ship allows you to throw enemies overboard.

Music plays a very large role in Ape Out. The title’s soundtrack is heavily drum-based, and each kill in the game results in a crash of cymbals. Stringing kills together and hearing the way it impacts the soundtrack gives the game a unique rhythm. It doesn’t alter the gameplay from a technical standpoint, but instead it affected the way I wanted to play the game. There were times where it might have made more sense from a strategic standpoint to approach each stage using stealth, but I found myself wanting to keep the rhythm going and hear how the music changed as a result. The music theme even extends to the game’s levels: each area is represented as a vinyl record, with chapters taking place on each side of the “album.” Finishing all four areas unlocks a bonus “single,” which actually tasks you with breaking into an area, rather than breaking out.

In addition to the main game, each of the various albums can be played in an arcade mode, in which players are timed and earn points for each kill. Players also only have one life in arcade mode and earn bonus points for finishing each chapter unscathed. The game’s kills get even more satisfying as the number of points acquired appear in the blood of each fallen foe.

Despite all the violence, Ape Out only has a “T” rating from the ESRB. This is very likely owed to its graphic approach. Stills don’t do the game a whole lot of justice, but the game is rendered in a really unique style that looks more like the opening credits sequence in a Quentin Tarantino or Edgar Wright film, than a video game. Everything looks intentionally grainy, and the approach truly makes the title stand out. While the game is an absolute pleasure to look at, however, some areas can be a little difficult to see in handheld mode if there’s a lot of light, so players might want to plan accordingly.

The biggest issue most players will have with Ape Out, however, is its short length. Each area will only take players somewhere in the ballpark of 15-25 minutes to complete. All in all, players shouldn’t have trouble completing everything in just a couple of hours. It sometimes feels unfair to judge a game by its price point but, at $14.99, Ape Out might be just a bit too short for some gamers to rationalize a purchase.

While Ape Out doesn’t last all that long, it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome, either. The game is an absolute blast to play, and an experience that will delight most players. Between the game’s stylish presentation and unique use of music, Ape Out feels unlike much else on eShop. The game is very much an impressive achievement from developer Gabe Cuzzillo, and those who value quality over length will find a great option in Ape Out.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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