Ghosts and Apples Review: An Apple-solutely Unique Game
Halloween may be well and over with, but if I’ve learned anything from Tim Burton, it’s that Halloween can be mashed together with any holiday and enjoyed year round. And so it is with Ghosts and Apples from Rough Cyber Humans. A puzzle-y/arcade-y game, Ghosts and Apples is thoroughly unique and addicting from the start.
A Hard-Core Puzzle Game
Considering the genre, it’s not terribly surprising that there’s not a whole lot of story involved in Ghosts and Apples. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, just that what is there isn’t going to be the reason you keep playing. The game centers on Jack and Shelley, living puppets that must navigate the strange, magical, and magnificent House of Frantic Pictures. What little narrative there is told in story book form, with still images and frequently in rhyming couplets. Overall, it gives the game a whimsical, sort of fairytale feel to it that I really quite liked.
You’ll Need to Apple-y Yourself to Succeed
Ghost and Apples’ gameplay is the real draw. I honestly have never played anything like it before. The best way I can describe it is if Bejeweled and Simon (the colored light memory game from the 1970s and extremely popular in the 80s, to date myself), but even that doesn’t fully capture its essence. There are two methods of play depending on which character you’re controlling. When playing as Jack, you’ll have two columns, one on each side of the screen. You’ll need to fill these columns with ghosts and get them to explode to clear them. How do you make a ghost explode, you ask? Well, Jack is equipped with a balloon that will instantly catch the first ghost that appears on the screen. Send them to one of the tubes and match it with a ghost of that color. Get three or more ghosts of the same color stacked together, and they’ll explode!
To move the ghosts into position, you’ll utilize just four buttons: up and down on the D-pad, and X and B. Up sends the ghosts into the tube through the upper left, down through the lower left, while X crams a ghost down through the upper right, and B stuffs them up through the lower right. Sounds fairly simple, but as the game scales in difficulty, it gets increasingly frantic, and it’s extremely easy to hit the wrong button. You’ll also grab ghosts in the order they spring up from the bottom of the screen, so you’ll need to plan your moves ahead as best you can hope to. You’ll initially start with only a few colors, but as you progress through the game, new colors will be added. Additionally, you’ll come across unique ghosts, such as the black ghost that can’t be linked to any other ghost, or the white ghost, which will blow up all ghosts in a column.
Un-boo-lievably Fun Gameplay
Shelly’s journey through Ghosts and Apples is an entirely different experience. While she’ll still grab ghosts with her balloon as they leap from the bottom of the screen, instead of stacking them, she’ll instead have to guide them towards electrodes in each of the corners. The controls are the same as they are for Jack, sending ghosts to each of the four corners, but rather than stacking them, they’ll explode once contacting the electrode. Of course, it’s not as simple as just sending it to any ol’ electrode. It must match the color of the ghost caught in your balloon. Try to send it to the wrong colored electrode and poor Shelly will receive a nasty shock, leaving her unable to act for several seconds. And don’t think it’s as easy as that, either – the order of the colors will periodically change, so you’ll have to be quick on your feet. The only hint you’ll get is a distinctive sound the same time the color changes.
Each stage has a set number of ghosts you need to blow up in order to proceed to the next level. Once exploded, the ghosts become apples, which can then be used to purchase keys necessary to unlock new rooms in the strange mansion. You’ll need to switch between Jack and Shelly in order to collect enough apples, as they won’t be able to get the needed amount on their own. Overall, there’s some 150+ plus levels, so there’s plenty to keep you busy, especially considering the difficulty curve is fairly steep and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the game increasingly challenging very quickly.
Bootiful and Charming
The art style of Ghosts and Apples is adorably charming. While there’s definitely a Tim Burton-esque feel to it, what with the creepy house, the monsters inhabiting it, and the pallid-looking main characters, the game still looks and feels unique. Each room that you travel through has a series of paintings hanging on the wall, each representing a level. Each room also has some unique art, such as deliciously creepy clowns peeking through a crack in the wall. Really, my only complaint in this department is that the music is entirely meh and forgettable.
A Game Deserving Apple-ause
While Ghosts and Apples does have a lot going for it, there were a few missteps. The smallest being the lack of any kind of memorable soundtrack, the greatest being the steep difficulty curve. The first few levels do a great job of easing you into the game, but it takes off very quickly from there, and just keeps climbing. Additionally, while I really enjoyed the creepy look of each room, they unfortunately start to feel repetitive, and it doesn’t really feel like you’re exploring a mansion.
Ghosts and Apples is a thoroughly enjoyable game. Simple controls, Tim Burton aesthetic, and unique, addictive gameplay make for a great experience. While the difficulty curve is a bit steep for my tastes, the challenges are certainly part of the fun. There’s also a solid versus mode for two players. I played several matches against my husband and it’s just as addicting as the story mode. If you’re in the market for a unique puzzle-y, arcade-y, increasingly frantic game, Ghosts and Apples may just scratch that itch for you.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed); Publisher: 7 Raven Studios; Developer: Rough Cyber Humans; Players: 1-2; Released: October 29, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.