Another quick playthrough and write-up for a Ratalaika Game out today on consoles: Apple Slash. While it’s nice to be able to finish a game in ample time of launch, this indie title was a bit on the disappointing side. Why? The duration.

Armed with a mighty sword, you play an apple knight sworn in to protect the marshlands from some invaders. The sword is the focal point here as it hovers around your knight as if possessed, waiting for your input, but fun to wield.

With the right analogue stick, you point the sword in the direction of the bad guys and hit R1 to melee. While your sword can potentially go batshit crazy while you mash the button, your knight can take a slight step back from danger as the blade is about an arm’s length away. That doesn’t mean you’re entirely safe as enemies from the swamp will fire projectiles at you, and in some cases, you can be overwhelmed by them.

Apple Slash Review

In some respects, Apple Slash is a twin-stick shooter as the knight and sword move independently. It also bears that same frantic feel of the genre. As mentioned, the enemies can overwhelm you. They’re primarily stationary, but the movement is restricted to narrow paths, and each of the baddies respawns pretty damn quick, often while you’re clearing a way to safety.

Apple Slash Review - Big sword
Big sword. Source: PR

The combat element is massively satisfying and works really well. Besides the standard attack, there are several skills to unlock throughout the map, too, activated with the L1 button. There’s an oversized sword that drops out of the sky to wipe out an army, projectile daggers, a boomerang sword and an upgrade that allows you to cut through vines to reach secret areas. Like the enemies, vines can respawn ever so quick, pushing you back if you don’t act fast.

Fighting legions of enemies isn’t a walk in the park where you’ll come out unscathed, so naturally, you’ll take damage. A large apple represents your health meter, and you can only replenish it through seeds found hidden in vegetation and from defeating enemies – there are no health potions. It’s pretty damn funny watching you heal as you have to hold down square, and he’ll vibrate on the spot, spending 50 seeds for ten health points. Make sure to pick a safe place to stand.

Apple Slash’s story is pretty redundant, other than what it would presumably say on the back of the box about invaders in your kingdom. You do encounter a couple of NPCs that will set you quests, trick you and what-not, and the relatively compact dialogue is often funny and has an Undertale vibe to it. The primary mission is to locate a local’s son, identifiable by the apple cart he pushes and his cap.

Half An Apple

So, after locating him, I square up to the end of level boss and manage to beat him on the second attempt. As seen before with respawning enemies and large numbers of them, this boss can summon them, all the while chasing you around the screen trying to crush you. I got rushed and died exactly the same time as the blow that killed the boss, but my death was registered first. It was pretty hectic for a first boss, but exciting, too.

Apple Slash Review - Shhh
Shhh… Source: PR

But that was the only boss. Shortly after returning to the NPC, he asks me if I’m ready to sail off. Realising that I had two of four keys to a secret area, I decided to remain and locate them before moving on. Upon my return to the NPC, we set off sail, and after a brief monologue, the Apple Slash credits rolled. Thinking it was a joke, I sifted through the menu options to see if there was a new area, but no, the game had finished in just over 30 minutes – maybe 45 at a push.

This was massively disappointing, as up until then, I had been enjoying the ruckus on the marshlands, switching between my available skills and battling it out with the boss. But that was it. Even with the secret area, the game was over. As Apple Slash is a solo developer piece, that’s fine as a lot of work goes into a game. I have to say that I enjoyed my time with the quirky, throwback visuals and madcap gameplay.

There’s nothing wrong with the gameplay, but it feels unfinished – as if there should be other areas, or at least a few more bosses in the marshlands, but that was it. Other than getting a fix on a high-octane run once more, there’s not much incentive to play through again anytime soon. Again, stressing here that it’s not a bad game at all – on the contrary, I very much enjoyed it, but it’s far too brief, in my opinion. Definitely worth playing; just be mindful of the longevity.