One benefit of reviewing games: It’s a great stress reliever. After a rough day, I played Apple Pie with my son so I could write the review. The match-three game gave us an opportunity to connect by doing something fun together. Unfortunately, the game’s benefit stopped there.

As the story goes, you receive a call from eccentric aunt who needs to take Marcello on a long vacation. Marcello would be her cat. She owns a restaurant and asks you to take care of it for her, so you’re off on whirlwind adventures of running a restaurant.

The game is one of those great ideas that could’ve gone a long way if the execution was better. Amateur production values rear their ugly heads in everything from the ugly dialogue font to below par graphics.

Then there are the grammar errors. The game used "it’s" when it should be "its" and "peaces" instead of "pieces" in describing the torn postcards that you’re supposed to collect by making matches over a specific square. Apparently, "pappy" chewed up the postcards. I don’t know about other countries, but in America "pappy" means resembling pap or mushy. It’s also a nickname for dads. The story probably meant to say, "puppy."

The goal is to make matches of three or more of the same objects divided into three types of restaurant-related objects: dishes, food, and drinks. The game tracks matches of each object as these convert into money for buying things to stock up the restaurant and its menu. Keep matching until you clear all the tiles behind the objects to advance to the next level.

The restaurant and menu shopping occurs between levels, but upgrading doesn’t affect the game except to eat up your money. Open the menu to play a barely noticeable mini-game. The menu contains four rows of dishes with each row being one dish. For example, a row contains a salad with each plate having ingredients. After buying all of the salads, re-sort them in order from one ingredient to many ingredients. That’s a simple example.

The next row contains pizza slices. So which one should be first? There’s no logical explanation. So I move the pizza slices until the game says it’s correct, or so I think. It’s not even clear when I succeed. A red and green thermometer show up on the left side, but their purpose is also not obvious and red usually means bad. Opening the Help section provides little information. All it explains is how to play match three and to use bonuses.

Bonuses: Apple Pie brings something original with the bonuses in that they’re not only a help in saving your rear, but also they’re fun to use. In many match three games, players can win bonuses to destroy objects when they’re stuck or time is almost up. These restaurant-themed bonuses do different things. The first, a knife, slices up the object to destroy. A blender mixes up all the objects. A toaster destroys a row or column of your choice. A salt shaker destroys random tiles. However, it takes too long to earn new bonuses. The knife comes early and the rest take their sweet time appearing.

That brings up another problem with the game: imbalance. I won more than half of the trophies before I finished the first restaurant or received half of the bonuses. What’s more is that the trophies don’t make sense — at first. Each trophy has two descriptions such the following describes one award:

  • "Collected the same of six type in a row." / "Collected the same of eight type in a row."
  • "Collection 1500 points per stage." "/ Collected 40000 points per stage."

Upon further play, it turns out the game awards a bronze medal for meeting the first goal and a silver medal for meeting the second goal. What’s considered a stage? The vague award descriptions make it hard to feel pride in receiving the trophy.

Again, this is another glaring example of how the lack of instructions affects the game play. The game doesn’t explain advanced match game features such as how to break a single lock and double lock. While match three fans know how, a game must always assume players have never seen a PC game before. The outside gridlines disappear in one level, another serious flaw. This isn’t a trick to make the game harder as it occurs early on and the game expects you to "clear" these invisible cells.

Back to the pieces of a postcard — the second mini-game: the puzzle has no frames to give a hint of where the scene belongs. Doing the puzzle is a chore. After putting together the puzzle correctly, the game rewards you with a real recipe. Neat reward, but a pain to earn that no one will miss out by skipping the puzzle, which is a welcome feature.

The backgrounds and restaurant scenes use a lovely impressionist painting style. The story and characters, however, use a different and livelier style. I think the game would be sweeter than apple pie if the scenes had adopted the character style art instead of impressionist art.

My son gives thumbs up to the soundtrack or rather gave his approval by moving his head with the beat. Instead of losing lives when at least one tile remains at the end of the clock, Apple Pie fines $500 — another original feature.

While not everything in the game is easy as pie, it has great potential that needs more work. Despite its serious flaws, I couldn’t help but keep playing the game. Beginners will find this one too much work to figure out. Experienced match three players can make it through Apple Pie‘s flaws, but is it enough to allow them to enjoy instead of feel frustrated? That depends on the player.