Hands-on with ‘Ape Out’ combines jazz with primal violence

In Ape Out, you play as an ape who’s trying to get out. It’s unique. It’s jazzy. It’s thrilling.

I played a preview build of Ape Out, navigating my way through two “discs,” which act as sorts of worlds and contain a handful of levels that increase in difficulty as a percussive jazz track pushes you forward through heavily guarded rooms, sporadic drum beats encouraging a fast pace of movement as satisfactory cymbal crashes punctuate every kill.

The two discs I played began similarly: You, an ape, are trapped behind glass with a rifle-toting human standing guard. You have to punch your way through and make your way out of whatever building you’re in. The first, a sort of research facility, the second, a high rise.

There are two moves in Ape Out – punching and grabbing. The first, punching, sends humans flying across rooms, popping in a burst of red blood like a splash of paint when they hit a wall or another person.

With a grab, you can guard yourself from the enemies shooting at you from head on, allowing you to progress, at least for a moment, or pull a steel door off its hinges to act a shield down a narrow hallway.

Ape Out’s aesthetic is as stark as its soundtrack, with bold colors and top-down point of view. Instead of giving you an advantageous look into the next room like with Hotline Miami, it actually narrows your vision. You can’t really see what’s coming around any given corner, which adds a high level of tension.

Slowing down is not really an option.

But what really builds a tremendous amount of tension is the jazz drumming that paints the backdrop of every moment of gameplay. The staccato beats of the soundtrack never let you relax as you race through rooms, break through glass, rush down floors, and try to kill guards before they shoot you.

Three shots and the ape is dead, or one explosion if the guards with bombs get too close.

Running through a portion of the first building when the lights turn out is eerie and intense.

Running through a portion of the first building when the lights turn out is eerie and intense.

Although you’re a huge ape with incredibly powerful fists, you’re pretty vulnerable. The only way to not die all the time is to move quickly and either kill guards within two seconds of them spotting you or try to run for cover and move in on them from another angle.

It’s a fast game. Slowing down is not really an option because you need to keep up your speed to take care of threats quick enough.

There’s a fantastic primal feeling that comes with being an ape just trying to find freedom while taking down armed captors. 

The preview of Ape Out I played was a nice blend of intense and satisfying, and the soundtrack behind everything brings it all together.

Ape Out busts out on PC and Nintendo Switch on Feb. 28.

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