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Indie Game Spotlight
There are a lot of simple 2D platformers on Xbox Live Indies. Some of them attempt to be artsy, some toss in unique puzzle elements, and some just try to be hard as hell. But the common denominator amongst almost all of them is how amateur they feel – the jumping physics are off, the graphics are flat, and the level design is sloppy.
I get whiffs of these problems playing Apple Jack, but the game is often too fun, challenging, and charming for me to care. Yeah, the jumping feels a bit off (it's certainly not Mario) and the art has that flat, amateurish style that's so common in the indie space, but it's also a huge game with clever puzzles, awesome music, and quirky British sensibilities.
Apple Jack is presumably a fine English chap with an apple for a head. He explores strange worlds named after counties in England, running, jumping, and grabbing enemies from atop their heads a la Mario 2. Most enemies are color-coded, and the goal is to match same-colored enemies, tossing them at each other to finish them off.
The game will have you tossing washing machines at pigs in skirts and dodging owls that shoot laser beams, chaining your attacks for a coin bonus. The one really cool effect in the game is when you get a really high combo and hundreds of coins shoot out and fill the entire screen. Going for a high score almost feels like trying to break the game, but it never happens.
Apple Jack's one hundred levels are sure to keep you busy for a while too. Some of them are really tough, coming from the N+ or 'Splosion Man school of level design. If you liked those games, you'll probably enjoy this.
Even at its toughest, Apple Jack is a joy to play thanks to a beautiful acoustic guitar soundtrack. There's some surprisingly heartfelt compositions, and yet they mesh well with the quirky visuals. The challenge can be a bit uneven in spots (a level in the first world has one of the hardest puzzles in the game), but it's hard to get mad at a game that's so goddamn quaint.
For a dollar, Apple Jack is probably the best deal on XBLIG. The amount of quality content here could easily qualify it for the $3 or $5 bracket. Hell, with a bit more polish, this could have been a great Xbox Live Arcade game. Absolutely check it out.