Apple Jack 2
June 15, 2012 8 Comments
It’s been almost a year since I played Apple Jack. Judging by the reaction to my review of it, it would seem that was the most disagreeable of all my reviews. That, or birds were turning into rocks and dive bombing my windows. Do birds turn into rocks? Either way, many people genuinely liked the game. I didn’t. I thought it was too hard, the levels too sprawling, and the design rather bland. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly couldn’t endorse it. At least not without a kickback from the guys who make high blood pressure medication.
Apple Jack 2 is now out. Despite having a pretty good idea that I wouldn’t like the game too much, I have to admit I thought it looked pretty good. Sure, it’s still a punisher, but there’s now a Prince of Persia (or Braid if you’re the artsy-fartsy type) style rewind feature for the hopeless stumblefuck gaming population. The graphics look more colorful too. What could go wrong?
Well, about that. I guess I can say without reservation that Apple Jack 2 is a better game than the original. But I still didn’t like it. I still don’t get the appeal in punishers. Even with adjustable difficulty levels, I found Apple Jack 2 to be fucking maddening. The rewind function, which was put in place to give you chances to undo fuck-ups, mostly just increased the aggravation factor. I often rewound missteps, only to immediately die because I didn’t let go of the button at the right time. You can only use it every six seconds, so it doesn’t really work as the immortality-granting super power I was hoping it would be. I guess the argument was supposed to be “we didn’t want to make it too easy.” To which I counter back “there are adjustable difficult levels. I picked the pussy mode. Obviously I wanted immortality, you jerks!”
So I didn’t get to live forever. Or for more than twenty seconds at a time on average. What I did get to do was enjoy the significantly improved level design. Oh, it’s not easier. Don’t get me wrong. The game wants you to feel humiliated at your ineptness. But stages are much more clever this time around. Some have you trying to get to an exit. Some have you trying to kill enemies. Some have you running from things. Some have you on giant platforms that auto-scroll. Every new stage seems to be original in concept and execution, which is a big departure over some of the monotone stages of the original. Unfortunately, originality didn’t extend to the enemies. You’re still fighting the same pandas, washing machines, eyeballs, owls, and little spiky thimble thingies from the first game. The only major addition to the enemy roster (as far as I could tell, rage got the better of me about half-way through) is giant saw blades. As a result, Apple Jack 2 feels more like Apple Jack 1.5. More of an expansion rather than a continuation. It’s weird because the box art is a homage to Super Mario Bros. 2, which was a huge departure from the original game. Despite improvements, Apple Jack 2 is pretty much the same game as the original.
It’s a shame, because I think the developer has got to be oozing talent out his rear end. The graphics, sound, music, and level design all suggest that. I just don’t want a game that cheerfully holds my head underwater. Some people do. Weird people, sure, but they’re out there. I do question if the market for these games is as big as people make it out to be. There have been punishers that are huge hits, but how often do those pop up? Of the 90 top-selling XBLIGs as of this writing, only two are punishers: the Impossible Game and the Impossible Game Level Pack. The market is trying to tell you developers something. If you weren’t so busy dumping salt on slugs and blowing up frogs with firecrackers you would have noticed by now.
80 Microsoft Points said to debate which of the remaining 88 games are also punishers in the comments section in the making of this review.