Ape Out review | Thelonious monkey business

One part Hotline Miami, one part hominoid jazz odyssey. Here’s our review of Ape Out…


Searching for a phrase to perfectly summarise Ape Out, I’m torn between two internal critics. The first critic, striving to bestow due reverence on elegant design through excessively indulgent wordiness, wants to say something like: “Ape Out does for jazz what Hotline Miami did for pulsing synthwave, weaving its chosen musical genre into a sensory assault of frenetic ultra-violence and deliciously responsive discordance.” The second critic, who likes to keep things a bit more direct, prefers this:

Ape Out lets you play as a giant primate and punch people into gooey bits while rewarding you with reactive, free-form jazz samples. More importantly, it doesn’t waste a single second of your time.”

Either way, here’s something they can both agree on. Ape Out is the most energetic, cohesive, and joyfully, absurdly violent game I’ve played all year.

If you’re familiar with Devolver labelmate and brutal neon fever dream Hotline Miami, you’ll find yourself right at home with Ape Out, save a few important distinctions. You’ll still rapidly traverse maze-like stages teeming with deadly, ultra-aggressive hostiles, and you’ll still need to react lightning-fast to threats.

As you weave your way through labs, offices, boats, and at one point, a full-on war zone, gun-toting bastards approach from every angle. Ape Out has a slightly delayed enemy reaction window compared to Hotline Miami, and here you can take three hits instead of one. The trade-off is that you can’t pick up any weapons, although your gigantic orange primate is no less dangerous for it.

When your considerable fists don’t cut it, you can grab would-be attackers and use them as human shields. You can also redirect their panicked gunfire in a more advantageous direction, like directly into their colleagues, for example. Ape Out still revels in glorious cartoon violence, but the focus here is more on self-preservation. You could, theoretically, get through most stages without harming anyone.

If you did that, of course, you’d be missing out on the cacophony of cymbals, or the reactive jazz fits that announce each explosion of lo-fi viscera like red paint catapulted at a concrete canvas. Ape Out translates the chemical, guilty mania of Hotline Miami into wholesome, anti-corporate carnage, like breaking Bobby Kotick’s nose with a frozen bunch of fairtrade bananas.

It all looks marvellous, too. Stages are impressionist scrapbooks of static-dappled crêpe paper, but still manage to convey all the information you need to traverse them effectively.

Levels are themed as tracks on jazz LPs, with each new environment featuring an ‘A’ and ‘B’ side. It’s a tad on the showy side, but all adds to the sense of a cohesive piece of procedural art that invites the player to express themselves as much as it imparts the personal expression of the developers on the player.

It might not be the most ambitious or truly original title I’ve played this year so far, but despite its obvious homage, it’s the first one I’d say is essential.


Ape Out’s reactive jazz soundtrack, put together from hundreds of samples, perfectly underscores the kinetic violence. Each flurry of fists is heralded by a detonation of frenzied percussion, like the world’s bloodiest slapstick routine.


Where some may find briefness and simplicity, others find perfectly paced elegance. An absolute sensory delight. Go play it. Go on.


Genre: Arcade/Rhythm
Format: PC (tested) / Switch / PS4 / XBO
Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo, Bennett Foddy, Matt Boch
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Price: £10.99
Out now

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