Ape Out turns raging monkeys into improvisational jazz

In 2014, when game designer Gabe Cuzzillo was still a student in New York, he was going through something of a rough patch. “I was in film school at the time, and I was feeling pretty bad about where my life was going,” he says. That’s when he discovered the 1980 jazz tune “You’ve Got to Have Freedom” by saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. There was something about the long, winding track that had a strong impact on Cuzzillo. “It really spoke to me on a deep level,” he says, “and it felt like it woke me up.” At the same time, he was working on a prototype for a top-down action game. As it turned out, the wild, improvisational style of jazz was a great fit for a game about an ape escaping from a lab.

That game would go on to become Ape Out,…

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