I hope you’re all ready for this holiday season. Back 4 Blood in October, Forza Horizon 5 in November, and Halo Infinite in December. That’s just three of the AAA games still coming this year, and each one is poised to wow us thanks to their big ol’ budgets and enormous dev teams. While we wait for the release of these mega blockbusters, there are always plenty of indies to enjoy. One of the latest reminders that a game doesn’t need to be a multi-million dollar project in order to be a blast is Apple Slash.
Created by Agelvik, this is one of the quirkiest games of the year. For starters, you play as an apple. Not just any apple, mind you, but an apple knight, AKA: a doctor’s worst nightmare. So, armed with a simple sword, you must journey into a marsh in order to… well, kill monsters. That’s pretty much it. Eventually, your quest evolves into helping a man find his son, but for the most part the story is nothing more than killing monsters.
The simple story really isn’t an issue here, however. Apple Slash isn’t worried about creating an epic tale, but more so in introducing odd little characters and slashy gameplay. The characters offer brief but enjoyable lines of dialogue to break up the game’s action, and do enough to make the game’s world feel lived in and unique. Not to mention friendly and enemy characters alike are all well-designed and well-animated.
But that’s enough about story and characters. Where this fruity title really shines is in its gameplay. You’ve most likely played or at least heard of the twin-stick shooter genre. Games such as Enter the Gungeon or the recently released Trigger Witch spring to mind as examples. Well, Apple Slash is a twin-stick slasher. It’s a genuinely great idea, and one that the developers have done a phenomenal job creating.
Slashing your sword is energetic, satisfying, and endlessly fun to watch. Cutting through a horde of baddies on one side before deftly swinging your sword behind you to catch another is a surprisingly large amount of fun. That sums up my feelings on the game as a whole, actually: a surprising amount of fun. As you progress, you do unlock some abilities that slightly deepen the combat, but if the game had nothing more to offer than swinging the sword, I’d still consider the gameplay a success.
Nevertheless, the abilities you unlock are actually a blast too. My favorites were throwing the sword as a boomerang, and summoning an enormous sword to crush any who opposed my wrath. Just like your basic attack, these abilities are flashy while making you feel like an unstoppable apple warrior.
Curiously, the abilities are tied to the exact same button on the controller and there is no switching this around. Each ability has a different cooldown timer after use, and you end up cycling through them with each press of the button. After getting my second ability and realizing that this was the case, I thought this was a horrible design choice. That is until I fought some enemies and realized that I actually loved the idea of carefully keeping track of what ability was next in line. It added a nice layer of strategy to the already fun rotary swordplay.
On top of basic attacks and abilities, your sword also has the ability to grow in both size and power if you manage to slay a few of your enemigos without getting hit. If keeping myself alive wasn’t incentive enough, this really made me determined to avoid damage at all costs. The way the bigger sword cuts through everything like butter made all that I loved about the combat even better.
I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that Apple Slash is a visual treat. All of you retro gaming enthusiasts out there will love its modernized pixelwork. The colors of black, red, and white are used well enough that the action on screen is never hard to read, and the bouncy, stylized animation breathes new life into the giant pixels. Like Shovel Knight, there are some technical tricks being done behind the scenes in order to make a new game that simultaneously recalls the look and feel of older ones.
If there was anything to complain about here, it would be that the game is incredibly short. I completed my first playthrough in less than forty minutes, and that may be a deal breaker for some. On the other hand, the game is incredibly cheap and there isn’t an ounce of fat on it. There’s not a list of side quests eight pages long, there’s not a single technical hiccup, and none of the characters prattled on for hours about their backstories that I didn’t care about. The primary gameplay loop is so well-done that I played through the entire game several more times just to keep chopping up baddies.
While it may not have cost millions of dollars to develop Apple Slash, it’s a game that I had a fantastic time with. It’s stylish, unique, and just plain fun. Even if you aren’t dying for something to play while you hold your breath until the big end of the year releases, this is one little indie that’s sure to satisfy.
Slash ’em up with Apple Slash, now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles