Devolver Digital is responsible for publishing some stellar indie games. While many of their recent releases on Nintendo Switch have been little more than ports of great titles, they’re now coming out with a new game from Gabe Cuzzillo called APE OUT. Is this new indie a smash hit or does it deserve to be locked in a cage?
A New Record
After a loading time that was a bit too long for my taste, you’re met with a minimalist title screen with the game’s logo in massive font. You hit “play”, and you’re thrust into the shoes of an ape who has been locked up. Smash through the glass, and the cacophony of percussion and body parts begins.
APE OUT wastes no time getting you involved in the action. One button press, and you’re already knee deep into the game. This philosophy of “hit first, ask questions later” is helped by the simple control scheme. You move, you punch, you grab. That’s it. While that could lead to the game becoming a bit too safe, there is enough done with each location, enemy type, and obstacle that APE OUT never gets old.
Another way APE OUT puts the action first is by making the game quick. You’re not encouraged to explore levels or rid each scenario of every bad guy that tries to stop you. Your only goal is to get to the end and hop into the next level. With this in mind, the game will be great for speedrunning, as I found faster ways to get through repeated levels whether it be through avoiding enemies or encountering as little as possible. That said, with a few shots being enough to do you in, there was always a sense of urgency with each playthrough. Every death rewards you with a peek at the level layout and how far you got, similar to Cuphead but with more specificity, giving players the “I’ll get it if I play one more time” mentality, which is welcome in a game like APE OUT.
One aspect making the game so fast is how it organizes its levels. While it might take a bit to load up into a game, that’s because the game has no loading screens in between groups of levels. You’ll enter the exit gate for one only to enter another one just by walking a little further. It’s a nice design choice that always keeps the pace moving briskly. That said, the levels are organized in the form of records with multiple. While this is a neat way of grouping levels, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of thematic significance in doing this, as APE OUT isn’t a musically focused game.
Breaking Out in Style
One aspect of APE OUT that’s worth talking about in more detail is its presentation. From the moment I booted up the game, it felt like it fully knew what it wanted to be and set out to achieve it. The menu is simple yet bold, which can be applied to essentially the entire game.
Through each level, the music is quiet until you slam your fists into an unsuspecting guard. At that moment, a mix of percussion instruments come together as if they were having a family reunion. It sounds like it would make for an annoying soundtrack, but it’s actually one of the best parts of APE OUT. Organized yet chaotic drums, clapping, and more make for a great tune to go with controlling a gorilla smashing through buildings and people.
Like the menu, the gameplay itself is simplistic. The gorilla and the bad guys are all colored with one maybe two colors. The levels themselves are dark to contrast from everything that moves within them. However, the game plays around with its simple colors, leading to some levels that change to let you know about an incoming obstacle or a change in rules (I’d go into detail, but I think it’s best to experience it for yourself). All in all, it’s good stuff, and the minimalist art style goes a long way.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for APE OUT was provided by the publisher.