Crush and batter foes to the rhythm of your own music
“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.