Ape Out review – a meditation on jazz, violence and escapee monkeys

Mar
01

Ape Out review – a meditation on jazz, violence and escapee monkeys

From the moment you first smash your way out of your cell, pulping a guard against the opposite wall, it’s clear Ape Out is going to be a lot of fun. The next thing you realise is that you’re actually playing a kind of rhythm game. One where all you know is murder.

Ape Out has a very simple conceit and is very easy to pick up. You, that is to say a honking great gorilla, want to escape. Lots of armed guards stand in your way, so it’s probably best to brutally murder them on your way out the door. You have only two buttons to contend with – one to grab and one to smash. Hurling your enemies into the nearest wall or grabbing them for use as a meat shield makes you feel tremendously powerful, and the weird shuffling movements of the gorilla have been so well realised that movement is a delight – as long as you’re playing with a controller, that is. Playing Ape Out with a keyboard and mouse is perfectly doable, it just lacks the same flow afforded by twin analogue sticks.

Really though, as captivating as its murderous gorilla is, the true star of Ape Out is the music. Each level pulses or ticks or rattles or quakes along with its jazz soundtrack – the music ebbing and flowing depending on how well your rampage is going – and each enemy kill is punctuated by a noise, whether that be a cymbal hit or the shriek of a trumpet. At first, these noises feel like a punchline – a bit of slapstick to round off the vibrant, bloody visuals. The more you play, however, the more you open yourself up to the music and realise just how integral that soundtrack is. Suddenly those cymbal crashes and bits of brass don’t seem like throwaway jokes any more – killing enemies almost feels like improvising. I really didn’t expect a game about an ape dashing people’s skulls against the wall to turn out to be a meditation on jazz as a medium yet here we are, and the effect is quite brilliant.

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