APE OUT is style. Straight up. Undiluted Does it have complicated controls? No! Dialogue, are you kidding? The simplicity is the point, because nothing should come between you and this game’s aesthetic. Describing APE OUT in non-aesthetic terms is an exercise in missing the forest for the trees. Garbage, who cares. APE OUT is an explosion of color and sound. APE OUT is an album cover come to life. APE OUT is synesthesia for music’s most violent genre, not in terms of themes or lyrics, but in terms of the literal interaction of person on instrument. APE OUT is smashing a man against the wall, smashing a drumstick against cymbal, APE OUT is smashing restart over and over and over again until you’ve managed to just survive the anthropocenes most hostile ecosystems. APE OUT is fucking great. APE OUT doesn’t hide very much from you. In the very first seconds of the game you’re shown the whole gambit. It’s top down, but in an aggressively 3d, three-color world. The laboratory, skyscrapers, and shipping containers you make your way through feel like a Saul Bass painting come to life. Often, so much more is obscured than is visible. The texture and true shape of the world is hidden. Hallways and corridors seem to bloom out of nowhere as you wander. Your vision is completely limited. As the ape, you can more or less see only what’s directly in front of him. And more often than not, those things in front of him are people who want him dead. That’s okay though, because wanting things dead, that’s kind of your specialty. No one just dies in APE OUT. They explode, like a water balloon filled with paint. They come apart so easily it seems like every molecule in their body was just straining to get free of their skin. They come apart like their natural state is exploded and you’re just helping them get there. The screen shakes, the controller vibrates, and then there’s just nothing left but color. And it speaks to APE OUT’s quality that it’s one of the best looking games I’ve ever played and yet that’s not even the best thing about its aesthetic. Not by far. APE OUT’s soundtrack feels bound to the games DNA. Every move, throw, and death feels perfectly tuned to the game’s drums. The low rumble of the big gorilla lumbering forward, the sharp crack of a gunshot, the distance cymbal of a man falling off a roof. It feels like it never repeats, never plays the same riff twice, and yet is always just right on. I had a friend compare this to those people who play along to the dialogue of TV shows and movies. The drums in this scene don’t create the rhythm, it just reveals what was always there. Who knew Pepe Silvia from It’s Always Sunny was a near-virtuosic composition? (I did I knew). It’s just drums too, never relenting, never taking a back seat. The drums perfectly parallel the violence onscreen, not just in timing but in personality. Throwing a goon against a wall feels so kinetic, like a drumstick crashing down on a cymbal and bouncing off, vibrating your whole body with the impact. Even with the simple act of walking forward, that constant rhythm reminds you how big you are, how powerful, but the CRACK of a gun is terrifying even then. Nothing in this game is light. Everything has weight. Those drums change with the scenarios too, emulating the feel of the materials in the different situations. Running through military forests feels different than crashing through cubicles, and that feels different than pulverizing a guard against a big shipping container. And really, dayenu, this would have been enough. Making a game that screams style, has music in its bones, that hones game feel to such a sharp edge it could cut glass, most games would kill to have even one of those things. But then right at the end, APE OUT goes farther. It takes utter joy and it uses it to create my favorite Gaming moment of 2019. So far throughout the game you, the APE, have been imprisoned. In a lab, in a city, on a boat. But in the last level you’re in what’s probably the most familiar situation so far. They gotcha. You’re in a goddamn Zoo. And of course, it doesn’t take you long to get out of your pitiful enclosure, but there’s something new in this level, more to do then simply kill. There are other animals that need to be freed – you’re smashing for progress, you’re smashing to give them the opportunity to smash as well. And as you rumble through this level, turning glass pens into powder, something starts to happen that laser-honed soundtrack. It starts to get away from you a bit. Suddenly there are more cymbals. The drums are tracking animals other than you, guards are being turned into paint left and right, falling under an unstoppable horde of big cats and bears and snakes. And as all this entropy reaches its peak, you reach the end of the zoo smash your way into the outside and- ARE YOU KIDDING? THERE’S BEEN A WHOLE BAND HERE THIS WHOLE TIME?!? The triumph of this moment is just fucking beyond. The screaming of that sax, the unrestrained motion of that piano, it’s like they’ve been chomping at the bit for hours just waiting for the drums to finish their solo, and then they explode into sound like they were shot out of a cannon. In an instant you suddenly understand this APE in a way that you didn’t even know you were missing for all the previous hours. The drum solo was just an interlude! Of course all we heard was the violence, we’ve only been with this APE while it was under duress. But it has so much more! The sax sells this level of elation that’s just been absent the rest of the game, and the piano, it’s just going wild. It sounds like waves just splashing up and down the keyboard, and the drums haven’t disappeared they’re still here they’re as active- more so- than they’ve been since it started. The APE hasn’t let go of its violence, it’ll always be a part of it, but now it’s part of a greater whole, just a piece of who that APE is. You realize how limited it had been in its expression for this whole game, only able to smash and grab because that’s all it’s artificial environment allowed. Only now, only that it’s out, can the APE be who it is. It only makes sense that this song is “You gotta have freedom” by Pharoah Sanders, jazz legend and quite possibly the best tenor player in the world. It’s a 10-minute riot, a full side of the vinyl that sounds an equal parts like a perfect collaboration between its instruments and like they’re all fighting to stay afloat in this tidal wave of noise. Pharoah Sanders is still performing by the way. He’s 71 in this video. For a game that can be summed up by its two-word title, APE OUT, I left with a remarkable amount of affection and empathy for this monkey. We got through the hardest part of its life together, and this ending, this explosion of joy, just hints at all the places it can go now. We’re OUT. We’re APE OUT.