If this is what an apple a day does to your body, sign me up.
Granny Smith is having a tough week. If it wasn’t enough that the neighbourhood kids assume she was obsessed with apples, a thief has snuck on to her property and absconded with some of her prized possessions. Well, she’s not going to take it anymore. Armed with rollerblades and a shocking spryness for her age, she’s off on a quest to retrieve… her apples. After all, she is obsessed with them.
From the misleadingly named Mediocre Games (Sprinkle), Granny Smith is the duo’s take on the runner genre: a heavily physics-driven chase through three worlds on a quest to beat a no-goodnick apple thief to the punch. Well, beat him to your apples…punch was just a metaphor for–you get the point! Armed with only a cane, your rollerblades, and two buttons to control them, it’s your mission (should you choose to accept it) to jump, flip, swing, and crash your way to the finish line with three pieces of fruit in hand. But let’s be honest: only a monster wouldn’t accept a mission that involved helping a little old lady.
By in large, it’s a blast to skate your way through hills, dales, train yards, industrial parks and more. Because the game automatically generates speed, Granny Smith quickly becomes a test of patience, risk, and timing, with jumps both precise and audacious needed to snag your prized fruit. By making flips a part of granny’s jumping, too, the game cleverly escapes comparison to many other existing “one-tap” runners; here, it’s a matter of whether or not you can judge distance and angle on the fly to expertly perform that key apple-worthy high jump, while executing just enough flips to earn points for the perfect landing in the process. Meanwhile, a la Jetpack Joyride, Mediocre Games scales up the tools and obstacles regularly enough that you feel as if you’re doing a lot with very few buttons. It’s not every day you see a granny jump through a glass window at high speed, use her cane to slide down ropes attached to a skyscraper, only to jump into a full upside down loop attached to another rope.
Unfortunately, like any sweet elderly woman needing help, the game occasionally feels like a burden, despite meaning well. On one hand, the game’s difficulty curve increases with satisfying regularity, eventually offering up the kind of levels experts crave – where one misstep means a restart, and crossing the finish line is a sign of perfection. With that said, seeming missteps in physics implementation make Granny Smith feel like it’s asking something of you that you aren’t equipped to deliver. For example, respawning after a fall or retry seems to freeze you in the midst of the last action you were performing. Naturally that action often includes things like hitting a wall, meaning the thief you need to stay ahead of? He’s already off to a zippy start while you steady your position and begin to move.
Moreover, the game’s motion itself often feels jilted with zips down wires giving you huge momentum, just before a long jump that sees granny moving as if she’s wading through butter. This isn’t a game breaker by any means, but it makes the sense of urgency feel stunted, and often keeps you focused on mechanical foibles – sometimes to the point of making a mistake. Speaking of which, Granny Smith definitely makes a mistake of its own by using the classic coin and star system – here represented by gold and apples – to no specific benefit for the player. Three apples represent an expertly cleared level, sure, but only in theory; moving on only requires you pass through the finish line, making the game’s commitment to the “three-star” system feel hollow. Equally purposeless are coins, which allow you to skip levels predicated on the assumption that beating a level is too hard: something that might be the case if life totals or restrictions played any part in the game.
Instead, I’d love to have seen more of the game’s delightful alternate character skins available for purchase, or perhaps a bonus level system that hid particularly thrilling or difficult levels behind coin-locked gates. With that said, there’s a fair argument to be made that I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, as Granny Smith‘s lack of artificial constraints like life total make it a more pure experience focused on the old fashioned joy of a high-speed, low-stakes chase on rollerblades. Mediocre certainly never feels like they’re sticking their hands in players’ pockets, and the option to purchase extra coins seems completely and refreshingly optional.
Speaking of old-fashioned, the game’s upbeat, jazzy soundtrack is easily one of the highlights of play. Not only does it feel like something granny herself would listen to, but it sets the tone for the whole experience as one of jaunty, carefree fun. In fact, the whole aesthetic should be commended, as Mediocre returns here to the Wallace & Gromit-style flare they used in Sprinkle; and though it may be a little less perfected and rougher around the edges, it’s no less reminiscent of a more hand-crafted, ornate product. Capping the package off is the option to view level replays in old-fashioned black and white, bringing to mind a more a playful version of what we saw the excellent (and also Swedish!) Simogo Games do with Bumpy Road.
It may show a few blemishes, and under the strain of scrutiny, its joints are certainly a little achey, but Granny Smith earns big points for the well-stylized, wholly earnest package it offers up. It isn’t ahead of its time, or working on the cutting edge of its genre, but for some gamers, it may just do you one better: illustrate the joys of something completely quaint.