Shoot the Apple is competent, but utterly generic

Following closely in the path blazed by Angry Birds, Shoot the Apple is a physics-based puzzle game that starts off easy but grows increasingly difficult as players dig ever deeper into its many levels. But it lacks both the charm of the world’s most famous object-flinger and its multi-layered complexity; it’s an amusing but easily forgettable diversion that probably won’t hold pride of place on the homescreen of anyone’s mobile for very long.

Shoot the Apple is a very simple game at its core. You must use a cannon to fire a seemingly endless supply of oddly feline aliens (seriously, they look like cats in spacesuits) at giant, doe-eyed, headphone-wearing apples. Hit the apple, move to the next level – easy peasy. Except it’s not that easy, of course, because between you and Mr. Apple lie various bits of architecture and other obstacles, ensuring that there’s a lot more to it than just pointing and pulling the trigger.

Shoot the Apple

Yet that really is all there is to it, and while you could say the same about the aforementioned Angry Birds, the limitless supply of aliens and quickness with which they can be fired pretty much does away with any feeling of contemplation or cleverness that puzzle games should engender. It’s like solving a Rubik’s Cube with an Uzi; sooner or later it stops being a problem, but it’s not much of a testament to your puzzle-solving abilities.

Also contributing to the superficial vibe is the fact that while levels sometimes serve up unusual architectural features, like ice-covered surfaces or boxes of TNT, the aliens themselves are always the same. They’re rag dolls, which renders their physical behavior a little unpredictable once they pop out of the cannon, but aside from some slight physical variations there’s nothing distinct about any of them. That leaves just the levels themselves to render variety, and the 60 or so I played through weren’t exactly shining examples of creative design.

Shoot the Apple runs smoothly and well, although the ads have a tendency to get a little aggressive now and then. The control scheme is simple: touch the screen to place a crosshair, remove your finger and the cannon will fire the alien through it. The further from the cannon the target is placed, the more forcefully it fires, and aliens can be launched vertically off the screen and will then come crashing back down, assuming the angle of the shot doesn’t carry it too far in one direction or another. And you’ll have to play those angles pretty carefully to get through some of the levels, although others are laughably easy.

Shoot the Apple

The game’s levels are divided up into groups of 25, each group beyond the first one locked and inaccessible. But it’s not enough to simply beat one group of levels to move onto the next, as each succeeding group requires “coins” to unlock. This is where the game’s primary challenge lies, because meeting just the minimum requirements to beat each level won’t earn you enough coins to move into the next group. You’ll have to earn two or three stars (sound familiar?) in all of them, which means that sooner or later you’ll be forced to replay a few to jack up your score.

Unless, that is, you want to purchase some coins to help you along your way. Shoot the Apple is a free, ad-supported game, but players who lack either the patience or the skills to earn coins the old-fashioned way can fork over a few bucks and buy their way into the higher levels. The coin demands aren’t particularly onerous, but I can see where dedicated players might be tempted to pay up to move on.

But is there any reason to become a dedicated player in the first place? Shoot the Apple isn’t a bad game, it’s just not a compelling one in any appreciable way. It may offer some appeal as a quickie time-killer for those moments when Hanging With Friends is a little too complex and intellectually demanding, but as a game to stick with for the long term, I just don’t see the hook.