Apple Jack 2 is zany, funny, beautiful, weird, pulse-racing, and – most importantly – fun! Any positive adjective you can think of, Apple Jack 2 is. Now here’s the crazy part: Apple Jack 2 costs all of 80 Microsoft Points. That’s £0.69, €0.96, ¥118, or $1.00. Here is a game that could easily rock-out a 1200 MSP retail price on Xbox LIVE Arcade, but costs next to nothing. Beat that for value.
Apple Jack 2 is without question, the emerald-apple in a fruit-bowl of excitement you’ve been waiting for, and let’s face it, Apple Jack 2 is totally froot!
Horrible fruit puns aside lets kiwi-on with the review.
As with the original Apple Jack, it’s easy to compare Apple Jack 2 with Super Mario Bros. 2. To do so, however, would be lazy reviewing at best. Yes, you can pick up enemies and throw them, but that’s where the similarities end. Apple Jack 2 is so much more than just a simple jump, throw, rinse and repeat affair, and comparing it to SMB2 does Apple Jack 2 a disservice. Apple Jack 2 is ten-times the game Super Mario Bros. 2 was.
There’s a level of humor that takes center stage and is ever present in everything Apple Jack does. The three difficulties, soft core, normal core, and hard core, never fail to put a smile on my face. One level pits Jack against a giant panda that chases him frantically throughout. Despite being somewhat terrifying, the comedy value of having and giant panda teddy chase you is hilarious! Sure, looking back, you realise you’re playing as a naked apple-person wearing only a tie and boots getting chased by a over-sized panda, and yes, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also so zany and odd that it’s brilliantly fun!
The hilarity doesn’t stop at Godzilla-like pandas. From the moment you boot the game up, you’ll be laughing. The opening cutscene depicts Jack in an office working his 9-5 office job and wishing for another grand adventure. He decides now is the time for said adventure, strips naked, jumps out the window, and runs off into the sunset, ready for what the world sends his way.
To summarize, the humanoid with an apple for a head, strips off his suite, so he’s only wearing a tie and his boots, then runs off for an adventure. If you don’t find the images of a naked apple/human hybrid funny, then you’re dead inside.
Graphically speaking Apple Jack doesn’t reinvent itself. There’s a growing trend in gaming where developers feel each game needs its own unique styling and needs to be leaps and bounds ahead of the previous title. Apple Jack doesn’t need a makeover. It’s beautiful as it is.
What we have seen is an improvement to backgrounds and foreground numbers. Backgrounds are vivid and full of life, while the foreground is jam-packed with enemies, and more importantly, fruit. Multipliers can now get so out of control that, literally, the entire screen can become filled with fruits.
Think of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, only instead of swimming in coins, you’re swimming in fruit.
Enemies are as weird and wonderful as ever. Alongside our beloved pandas and killer washing machines are more equally as weird creations. My pick of this oddball bunch has to be the evil eyeballs. The shadowkin variants are some of the best platform-game baddies I’ve seen in the last ten years. There’s something extremely sinister about an enemy that happily floats around, minding its own business before turning nasty, striking an ominous face and charging straight for you. Every time I come across them, I can’t help but panic and curl up into a apple-ball. The eyeballs capture the essence of old school enemies like the Boos from the Super Mario games: enemies which aren’t hard to defeat, but will rip you to shreds the moment you let your guard down.
Enemies like these lend an element of puzzling to the game; figuring out how to pass certain enemies safely is a mission unto itself. The puzzle moniker is one that’s always bugged me. Why is Apple Jack labelled as a puzzle game? It’s not. It’s a platformer, with the occasional puzzle element thrown in there to keep things fresh.
This may sound like a negative, but it’s not. I did, after all, cut my teeth on platformers and being a platformer in this day and age is no easy feat.
I think the misconception is born from the blood-boiling difficulty. Having said that, I never reached the level of anger games like Super Meat Boy and Trials HD inflicted upon me. This could be due to a theme song which brought back happy memories of the TV show Scrubs: a theme tune which really helps to prevent controllers being smashed against walls when you over-jump a platform, or get cornered by a group of laser shooting owls.
The later levels may have a high difficulty spike and will leave your pulse racing, but at no point are you faced with the impossible. Every time you’re introduced to a tough section, you know you can do it, it’s just figuring out how to do it, and when you finally complete a harder section, you can’t help but feel like you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
How many of today’s Triple A titles make you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something of value?
Apple Jack 2 is: Zany, funny, beautiful, weird, pulse-racing, and most importantly, fun!
I tasked myself with finding five words that I felt sum up my experience in Apple Jack 2. The words that resonated with me most were: Zany, funny, beautiful, weird and pulse-racing.
Zany because of giant pandas; Funny because of naked apples; Beautiful because of its unique art style; Weird because of enemies like the evil eyeball, and pulse-racing because of the ever-increasing difficulty.
The word I haven’t covered is fun. So why is that? It’s simple, everything that goes into Apple Jack 2, from the meticulously planned out level design, to unique enemies, even the soundtrack, is fun. But reading a review, or words from anyone, cannot convey just how much fun it is.
It’s fun! It’s really fun! It’s so much fun that instead of reading this review you should see if your couch has a spare quid (or dollar) down the back of it so that you can go and see just how much fun it is.
Apple Jack took the title of King of the Xbox LIVE Indie Games Scene and set a bar so high that it made avatar games look about as much fun as a Hannah Montana sing along. Apple Jack 2 takes that bar and blasts it into orbit, all while declaring itself the champion once more.
Forget about all half-assed avatar indie games, for the price of a gamer-pic you could be playing this little wonder.
There has never been a better way to spend 80 MSP … Well, except for the original Apple Jack of course.