Wednesday, February 27

Review: Ape Out [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When reviewing so many indie titles every week one of the greatest rewards is when you stumble onto a game that blows your mind. You may never have really heard much about it, seen it in action, or been fed a constant stream of info in anticipation of release… it just shows and when you begin playing it you realize you’re seeing something special. While initially Ape Out concerned me, thinking that perhaps though it looked and sounded amazing it would be over far too soon, having completed the vast majority of what it has to offer I have no doubts that it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played all year.


Perhaps what fascinates me most about the game is how simple it is in many respects, and yet it makes what’s there work so well. While its gameplay is completely different (the closest comparison I can think of would be GoNNER, where the game is already visually brilliant but then pairs itself with amazing music (in this case jazz) that evolves and adapts to represent the on-screen action. Paired with the frantic nature of the gameplay as you scramble to escape captivity, the music builds into a sort of frenzy, amplifying the action and it all genuinely would often make my heart race as I tried to get to the end of the stage.


Speaking of the gameplay, I suppose it’s worth going over the basics. You’re pretty limited in what you can do, so execution ends up usually being quite vital. Basically you can shove and grab, and that’s it. Who or what you grab is thus pretty important, you’ll want to prioritize people with body armor (working as more than a single-hit shield) or semi-automatic weapons (as they fire wildly you can hope they take out some of their buddies). I’d warn against people carrying explosives as their friends won’t hesitate to shoot at them to hit you and that will end badly. Across all 4 of the game’s stages (represented by albums) you’ll be thrown into a variety of areas, starting in a lab but then moving on to a skyscraper (complete with windows to throw people out of), a jungle war zone, and then even a ship. Each has their own challenges and opportunities, and as the game goes on it continues to get tougher. The main game then culminates with a great zoo break out that’s a terrific way to cap it all off, but then an additional and even tougher single stage will unlock and I won’t ruin its surprise.


When it comes to flaws as a whole aside from its difficulty and perhaps it simplicity the list is pretty brief. For me this harkens back to old arcade games that would throw a ton of action at you repeatedly, but modern gamers may not find it as exciting. To keep things interesting the levels are all procedurally generated, so you truly can never know what to expect though so that helps keep things fresh. All told there are only a little more than a handful of enemy types you’ll slowly get introduced to over the course of the game, but I’d also say they all feel well used and each have their own tactical considerations when you see them coming after you. My biggest complaint is actually one that will hopefully be patched, and that’s just that I wish the Arcade Mode that unlocks once you complete each album had global leaderboards. It isn’t necessarily a killer but I think it’s a massive missed opportunity that would help provide legs to a core game you can probably get through in a handful of hours, depending on your level of skill.


As someone who loves playing things that are different and a bit daring, Ape Out has easily shot out as one of the games I’ve enjoyed playing the most on Switch. Its level of difficulty isn’t to be underestimated but the fortunate thing is that everything resets pretty quickly so you’ll be right back in the action to give it another try. Though it may seem simple there are definitely strategies to learn, or at least ways to help you cope with the insanity. Much like the great dynamic jazz that backs up the gameplay Ape Out is really all about improvisation, taking in the situation you’re giving and making it work. Similarly that will mean not everyone will “get it”, but I have a load of respect for the vision and rock solid execution all of the people behind this title were able to realize.


Score: 9

Pros:
  • In terms of both the visuals and the dynamic accompanying music the game is absolutely unique
  • Though the core gameplay mechanics may be simple the action remains unpredictable, frantic, and exciting throughout
  • The game’s final stage and the added epilogue level are a fitting and wonderful way to cap off some terrific gameplay

Cons:
  • There’s no doubt some stages can be difficult and it may frustrate people who tend more towards casual games
  • Though the specifics of the gameplay continue to evolve throughout overall there aren’t that many types of enemies you’ll face
  • The lack of global leaderboards for Arcade mode is disappointing and absolutely should be addressed to help add more longevity for people who enjoy the game