What if there was jazz instead of techno in Hotline Miami? – I suspect that none of you has ever asked yourself this question. However, this is the question Ape Out answers.
But from the beginning. Ape Out can rightly be associated with Hotline Miami. Both of these games are extremely difficult, brutal action games with a perspective from above. These titles also have a distinct style and unique soundtrack. What makes them different? While Hotline Miami is an exaggerated vision of the 80s, in which we play the role of an unbalanced killer, in Ape Out we control the gorilla escaping from the research center.
Putting the thesis that Ape Out is a jazz Hotline Miami, I do not mean a simple substitution of one musical genre for another, it is not a simple exchange of M | O | O | N and Perturbator for Charlie Parker, Miles Davis or John Zorn. In Hotline Miami, the music is at the heart of the game, together with the gameplay create a perfect synergy. If the music is to harmonize with the jazz Hotline Miami, then the essence of the game must also change.
The essence of techno is its excellent repetitiveness – and this is reflected in the Hotline Miami gameplay. The game leaves no room for error, opponents have a reaction time as if they had holes in the nose forever full of cocaine (which in total fits into the ejtis-gangster climate), a moment of hesitation results in death and the need to repeat the level. Therefore, just as the sequencer always beats the beat perfectly, the player must also achieve this mechanical perfection to survive. Ape Out goes a different way. The distinguishing feature of jazz is improvisation, and improvisation is the player’s task. Unlike Hotline Miami, where it was generally necessary to murder all enemies on each level, here the goal is different: to get out of freedom. How we do it – this is a secondary issue. It is not possible to rely on one strategy chosen in advance. After each loss, the level is generated again, and even if a moment ago the best tactic was quietly sneaking out of sight of enemies, the next try you can have the best chance of survival by killing everyone around.
This improvised spirit perfectly captures the music. On the one hand, the soundtrack adapts to what is happening on the screen, constantly selecting the right paths from a database of hundreds of samples. In itself, this does not let you down – dynamic music was already dealt two decades ago in Unreal. However, one small detail changes a lot here: the player co-creates the music – each killing of the enemy is accompanied by a blow to the plate, and although on paper it does not look like something stunning, in practice it greatly increases the player’s involvement, allows you to immerse yourself in music. The player in his own way not only plays the role of a gorilla, but also becomes a jazzman.
Since there is no way to learn the level by heart, in some respects it is not as ruthless production as the games from the Dennaton studio. Our gorilla is only dying from the third hit, and the guards react with a noticeable delay – which is quite understandable, I would probably also die for a moment if a quarter-ton gorilla charged on me. This does not mean that it is easy. Ape Out is extremely demanding, it is one of the few titles that caused me to curse and throw loudly at the computer with a highly unparliamentary language. I will not be surprised if more than one controller turned into anger improvised ballistic missile falls in this game.
Ape Out should also delight all lovers of minimalism. You can see that the maxim less is more guided in the design of each game element. A small interface can serve as an example. There is no health meter – how much life the gorilla has still shows the abundance of blood flow that he leaves behind. The same applies to graphics inspired by Saul Bass’s posters and animations. Instead of crowding of details, we have expressive color patches intersected by visual noise reminiscent of the cracking of a vinyl record. While this game must be watched on the move, static images may not look very inviting.
And, above all, minimalism can be seen in the gameplay. Often in modern games I am bothered by unnecessary crowds of elements. When I play any Call of Duty and I see literally dozens of weapons, I miss the shooters from the 90s, which had 10 different weapons – but really unique and refined from beginning to end. However, with Ape Out in the old Quakes we had a Byzantine splendor. Here, the possibility of interacting with the game world is basically limited to two actions: with the left mouse button, depending on the context, we hit the opponent or throw with what we have in our hands, while the right one is used for gripping. Sounds poor, but this simple mechanics has squeezed everything possible. Depending on the situation, these simple actions can give a drastically different effect. Grabbing a serial opponent we get an excellent live shield, and if we catch the enemy with dynamite, we explode with him if he gets hit by a stray bullet. A security guard with a machine gun sends a whole stream of missiles in a random direction, thanks to which we can quickly clear the entire corridor from enemies … And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Combination is a plethora, and to achieve success it is necessary to master them all.
Do you know this wonderful feeling of satisfaction when everything fits together perfectly? When do we correctly clean the board to zero when the ball is correctly positioned in Tetris, when the ball hits the basket without even touching the rim, or when we watch movies with amazing machines from factories? It was such an experience that accompanied me when I played Ape Out. The creators took several elements – jazz, great, pissed off chief and stylistics of the 1950s – and consistently pulled out everything they could from them, throwing every unnecessary element into the trash. I have not dealt with an equally coherent and thoughtful game for a long time.
However, this is not a title for everyone. If you are not amused by games ruthlessly difficult, then you probably won’t find much fun playing Ape Out. It is also possible that this game will not captivate you if you are not a lover or jazz lover. But perhaps to the unconvinced convincing to this genre playlist I arranged, in which you will not find aged boring in suits who play smoothed jazz for the upper middle class.