Crush and bat­ter foes to the rhythm of your own mu­sic

PC GAMER (UK) - - PREVIEW - Khee Hoon Chan

“One of the biggest things we have added is the dy­namic drum sys­tem”

Imag­ine a game in which ev­ery kill is ac­cen­tu­ated by a crash of cym­bals. Ev­ery punch punc­tu­ates a hip jazzy tune, while the tempo picks up at an ex­hil­a­rat­ing pace. Par­tic­u­larly skill­ful as­saults are ac­com­pa­nied by a ca­coph­ony of clashes and drum beats.

And as goons sur­round you with guns and flamethrow­ers, wholly ig­no­rant of your strength and fury, you make quick work of them. You slam, clob­ber and thrash un­til they’re a mushy pulp – all the vi­o­lence un­der a pop art sheen.

This is what ApeOut, a smash-’em-up fu­elled by fre­netic ac­tion and a snazzy sound­track, looks like in its playable demo. Turn­ing the bru­tal ram­page of a go­rilla into elec­tri­fy­ing mu­sic, play­ers can, to an ex­tent, dic­tate the game’s pulse. They can kamikaze through lev­els to the back­beat of its dy­namic melody, its ebb and flow a mix of com­po­si­tion and care­free im­pro­vi­sa­tion. While the af­fair can eas­ily regress into a hap­haz­ard mess of notes and colours, ApeOut has of­fered a tight and grip­ping ex­pe­ri­ence so far.

Given its flashy colours and rhyth­mic mu­sic, it’s not sur­pris­ing that the game has al­ready in­vited com­par­isons to top-down shooter Hot­lineMi­ami. Yet Ape Out is a dif­fer­ent beast al­to­gether – stylis­ti­cally dis­tinct from the heady in­ten­sity and low drone of the for­mer’s elec­tronic beats. In­stead, it adopts the stylings of jazz, a genre of­ten per­formed with un­pre­dictable twists, within its

Tme­chan­ics. “One of the biggest things we have added is the dy­namic drum sys­tem,” said Gabe Cuzzillo, the de­vel­oper be­hind ApeOut. “The drums are be­ing played live, ba­si­cally, by this pro­ce­dural sys­tem that chooses dif­fer­ent drum pat­terns based on the in­ten­sity of the sit­u­a­tion.” The drums beat louder, for in­stance, when the go­rilla is pum­melling the be­jeezus out of its cap­tors. Con­versely, the mu­sic damp­ens to a whis­per when it’s skulk­ing around corners or bid­ing its time be­hind a door.

This spon­tane­ity is one of the most cap­ti­vat­ing fea­tures of ApeOut, and it lets the player par­tic­i­pate in the mak­ing of the game’s sound­track. Im­pro­vi­sa­tion is a core tenet of jazz, af­ter all, and it comes as no sur­prise that ApeOut’s am­bi­ence is rooted in a jazz tune Cuzzillo was ob­ses­sively lis­ten­ing to.

“The game is kind of aes­thet­i­cally in­spired by the song called You Got To Have Free­dom by Pharoah Sanders,” he says. “I was try­ing to cap­ture the feel­ing of that song in the game. The jazz thing came [into de­vel­op­ment] very, very early, and the orig­i­nal had jazz drum­ming the way it is now.” Ce­ment­ing this vi­sion are the movies Bird­man and Whiplash – films driven by the in­ten­sity of jazz per­cus­sion – which were re­leased the same year he was com­ing up with the game’s con­cept. Yet, Cuzzillo ad­mits that he lacked the mu­si­cal chops to put this to­gether. He ap­proached com­poser Matt Boch, who came up with a set of al­go­rithms for ApeOut’s pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated mu­sic.


Keep­ing to the un­re­strained spirit of jazz, ApeOut also fea­tures ran­domly gen­er­ated lev­els. Ac­cord­ing to Cuzzillo, en­sur­ing that play­ers don’t be­come too fa­mil­iar with the game’s lay­out is cru­cial; that may oth­er­wise dull its aes­thetic, ren­der­ing it into a scripted, even stilted per­for­mance. More­over, the full re­lease will also be pre­sented in the vein of four al­bums. Each comes with its unique theme and style – much like a jazz mu­si­cian’s eclec­tic discog­ra­phy. With ev­ery punch and beat or­ches­trated by the player, it’ll be fas­ci­nat­ing to see how else ApeOut can trans­late its anar­chic vi­o­lence into dizzy­ing per­for­mance.

Stare upon the charred re­mains of your foes.

Break out of jail, quick!

The go­rilla can be set ablaze to burn its cap­tors alive.

The game’s color palette is typ­i­cally flat and bright.

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