Ape Out, the indie beat-em-up from Devolver Digital, is a story about consequences. Namely, the (bloody, messy) consequences that come with confining a genetically-engineered gorilla behind a single pane of glass.
Ape Out is also a game about improvising. Though you play as the aforementioned ape and enjoy all the Hulk-like strength that comes with it, the procedurally-generated enemy placement in each level means you're at risk for getting shot into a hairy wedge of swiss cheese. If you want to survive, you need to punch, grab, and throw your assailants before they have a chance to mess you up. Meanwhile, every punch you throw, every assailant you disarm (like, you literally rip their arms off), adds another drum tattoo, another cymbal-clash, or another few seconds of bass to the game's improvised jazz soundtrack.
Finally, Ape Out is a game about venting frustrations through all that guard-splattering, all that glass-shattering, and all that discordant music-making. If you've had an epic start to 2019 like myself (and by "epic" I mean "kind of awful"), it's a good way to open at least one of your interior steam valves.
Interestingly, my short life as an angry ape made me realize how games like Ape Out are hard to come by—games that short, single-minded, and aren't interested in making you travel along the rainbow path of complicated emotions. "You want to get mad? Get mad!" Ape Out bellows. "Rip off those arms! Use those guards' guns against them! Demand to see life's manager! And whatever else happens, keep going forward."
I understand why games like Ape Out are a little hard to come by. Much has already been said about feature bloat and over-long games: Games that are packed to bursting with characters, content, and choices in order to justify that $59.99 USD price tag. There's been some rebellion against this notion lately, with quicker, slimmer games such as Spider-Man PS4 winning financial and critical acclaim (as Mike points out, a short game can be worth a full $59.99, but a boring game isn't worth any amount of money), but it's going to be a long time before triple-A publishers freely assure developers the quality of a game's content matters more than how much stuff they can shove into the download, game disc, or cartridge.
Might be some time before consumers widely believe it, too. I ranked Nintendo's weird and wonderful puzzle game Sushi Striker as one of my favorite games of 2018, but its unique idea, frantic gameplay, and spot-on parody of anime tropes wasn't enough to convince detractors it's "worth" its $59.99 price tag.
This is my long-winded way of saying "making money off video games is really hard," and it's why I'm thankful games like Ape Out still come down the pipeline (and studios like Devolver Digital are willing to publish them), even if it only happens once in a while. A short, comically violent game that puts my thoughts on a single track is exactly what I need in my life right now. If there's one thing going through Personal Issues™ has taught me, it's that these big, meaty games we love are brimming with story content that reminds you—directly, as well as indirectly—about what's going on in your life.
I'm still working through Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, a game that's all about people with issues. Much as I'm enjoying Arthur Morgan's graveyard spiral into damnation (I promise that sounded a lot less mean in my head), it's a bit heavy to endure when you're going through problems of your own. Lots of games are like this, even if they appear to be benign at a glance. Stardew Valley, a game that I'm playing through again because I clearly don't have a big enough backlog to work through, has drama and scandal in spades. It's all for fun, yeah, but sometimes you want to turn off that superfluous muscle inside your head that makes emotions and causes you to think in circles.
Ape Out lets you do that. You just smash, crash, and bash your way to freedom while making beautiful, horrible music. I suppose you can stop think hard about the angry, untamed heart of this poor puffed-up primate who just wants freedom from his human captors. After all, the game contains suggestions of longing for home, for the wilderness—
Nah, don't do it. Just put on your gorilla suit, wreck some stuff, and enjoy.