Publisher: My Owl Software / Developer: My Owl Software / Platform: XBLIG

It has been out for quite some time now, and it has taken me about two years to get around to finishing it, but I have finally completed the Xbox Live Indie Game darling Apple Jack.  Now, what the hell is Apple Jack, and why did I come back to it after two years?

Apple Jack is a 2D puzzle-platformer from My Owl Software that is probably the most successful blend of absurdism, washing machine throwing and folk music humanity has ever produced.  Apple Jack reaches Earthworm Jim-esque levels of insane randomness (and difficulty, at times), but does so in such a subtle, inviting way.  It all somehow makes sense together, and eventually when a friend asks why you’re throwing a bubble wrapped in barbed wire at a laser-firing owl, you’ll suddenly remember that yes, this is a strange thing.

The gameplay in Apple Jack is simple, and the premise even simpler.  The main character (who has an apple for a head) is missing his pet dog, and decides to go out looking for him.  Each level must be completed by destroying every enemy found within the level.  This is done by standing on an enemy’s head and picking them up, SMB2-style, and chucking them at another enemy.  Apple Jack constantly plays with this concept through incredibly clever level design and tricks like giving enemies color-coded shields that can only be broken by the same color.

Apple Jack‘s biggest frustration to me is the fact that its difficulty is about as random as its art style.  Throughout its 100-some odd levels, the difficulty of Apple Jack may skyrocket suddenly in the first world, only to become incredibly easy for the next couple stages.  This isn’t exactly a bad thing, as even its toughest levels are still clever and interesting, just don’t expect any kind of steady difficulty ramp.

One of the things that helped smooth over the more swear-inducing levels is the fantastic instrumental-folk soundtrack by Josh Woodward.  It’s only a handful of tracks that randomly (or does it just loop a list?  I haven’t even noticed) play throughout the game, but they’re honestly so good and go so well with the warm, colorful art style that sometimes the only reason I would keep attempting a difficult level was to hear more.

There really isn’t any other way I can say it: Apple Jack is a wonderful game.  The difficulty can be a little much at times, but I enjoyed just about all of its 100-something levels.  I cannot recommend Apple Jack enough.  And from what I hear, there’s a sequel coming out.  I already want it.