Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
APE OUT! That's the message that pops up on the screen the moment you bust out of your caged prison. It's both the title of the game and the game's mantra. The ape is literally out, and it's up to you to guide the captive critter to freedom.
The Great Escape
Taking cues from Hotline Miami, Ape Out features a top-down viewpoint as you raise hell in a high rise building, zoo, military base, and freighter ship. Also like Hotline Miami, the action is nonstop and frenzied. That's where the references end, because Ape Out is very much a unique animal. You don't gain weapons or new abilities throughout the course of the ape escape... Oops! Wrong game! Okay, let's try that again. You don't gain weapons or new abilities throughout the course of the rampage. Hmm... Wrong game again, but Rampage kind of blows, so let's just continue, shall we?
You have two basic maneuvers to take on the gun-toting baddies of Ape Out. You can either shove enemies, or you can grab hold of them. If you shove them, you can do anything from pushing them into each other, splattering them up against the wall, or interrupting their attacks and just creating some distance. Ultimately, you're going to want to see some blood, because if you don't actually kill an enemy, he can come back and shoot you in the back later.
Grabbing an enemy can be used to your advantage in a few ways. You can use the captured bad guy as a human shield and watch him soak up the bullets that would normally hit our monkey protagonist, or you can drag him around the screen and slam him up against a wall or other character. And while you don't get to wield any guns yourself, grabbing an enemy results in said enemy firing a shot (or burst if that enemy is holding an SMG), which can take out another bad dude that's directly in front of your line of fire.
The reason Ape Out is so much fun is because it's a nonstop thrill ride. The action is absolutely insane. In addition to being completely nuts, the game is also crazy hard. Sometimes it can get a bit too hard, but it's always doable. Enemies are randomly generated, which can be problematic when an unrealistically, unbeatable gang congregates in an area that's lined with, say, explosive barrels. This random generation of enemies can pose a legit annoyance at times, and things can feel a bit disjointed every once in a while. Thankfully, these moments aren't too common.
Despite the simplicity from a gameplay standpoint, the environments create a welcome dose of variety. While sometimes you can go completely bonkers and just bulldoze through enemies, other times you'll need a more stealthy approach, depending on the number of threats present. You can toss enemies out of windows from the very top floor of a skyscraper. You can take control of an enemy holding a flamethrower and set flora and fauna on fire. You can even grab guys that are strapped with dynamite and throw them at other guys to create a beautiful and deadly explosion.
There are more than 30 levels in Ape Out, and it'll take you about four hours to get to the end. Once you do, you'll unlock a bonus level that's especially tough but totally worthwhile. You can also play completed chapters in Harder mode, which is, well, really freakin' hard. There's also Arcade mode, which tests how far you can get in each chapter with no continues. While the base game is only four hours long, that's actually a good thing because it never feels like Ape Out overstays its welcome.
The visual presentation of Ape Out is as badass as the gameplay. The whole thing has this abstract, block-y look it. The colors are bold, and seeing red blood splatter against the walls is like throwing paint on a canvas.
The jazzy music is cool, too, and everything you do adds to the chaos, with drumbeats playing over the theme songs every time you kill a dude.
There's never a boring moment in Ape Out. The game is as fun as it is stylish, and while it can get insanely punishing at times, it never feels impossible. This is one of the best pure action games of the year thus far.