Apple Panic is a platform game based on the arcade game Space Panic (1980, Universal) and ported to the Apple II by Ben Serki. You control a digger, armed with his shovel, and you must kill your opponents - the evil legged apples.
Your character can only walk left/right and climb up/down the ladders - no jumping - and if the apples touch you, you'll lose.
To kill an apple you must dig a hole on the ground and wait for one of them to get stuck on it. Then you must hit it with your shovel to make it fall to the level bellow. The apples die if the fall is big enough. Depending on their color, they may require from 1 to 3-level falls, so you may have to dig several aligned holes. Besides, the higher the fall, the higher you score.
Each level is timed so you must take out all the apples quickly, or you'll lose. If you're successful, the next levels will feature more and more enemies than the previous one.
It's very interesting to dig out some long-forgotten title that turns out to be a lot of fun and highly entertaining. Considering that this game came out for the PC in 1982, you can't expect much from the technical side of the game, but addictive gameplay was the magic ingredient of games from that era (something that producers today keep forgetting more and more often, unfortunately). If you were looking for simple but challenging gameplay, you have come to the right place.
Apple Panic is a typical member of the so-called 'trap-em-up' genre, which came to life with arcade games like Heiankyo Alien and Space Panic. These two games had some differences. Heiankyo Alien had a top-down view and you had to dig holes and then fill them up once the alien fell inside them. On the other hand, Space Panic featured a side-view, and filling a hole with an alien inside made the alien fall down (and possibly crushing another alien along the way). Although little-known today, Space Panic was the very first platform game ever, and has had an historic influence on the gaming world. However, there is no jumping ability. The famous Donkey Kong would be the first game to introduce us to the more classic 'jump'n'run' platform style. The 'trap-em-up' genre became more popular with later games like Lode Runner.
As you can probably guess by the name, Apple Panic is a clone of Space Panic. However, instead of aliens, you fight the more humorous evil apples. It was also among the first Panic clones to appear on home computers. Although nothing but a mere clone, this game was surely the first of its kind on the PC and was just as fun as its conceptual predecessor. Arcade machines had better capabilities at the time, but, as already mentioned, Apple Panic managed to retain the sheer addictiveness of the gameplay.
Every level has six platforms with a random assortment of ladders. You control a farmer who either digs holes or fills them up with his shovel. Enemies move randomly through the level and may fall into the hole. Once inside the hole, you must hit them with your shovel to knock them further down the hole. Once you clear the level, the next one will be harder, featuring more difficult enemies.
There are some things that you should know (or will learn while playing). First of all, you can't dig a hole on the lowest platform. You can interrupt the digging you have started, but you won't be able to walk over the semi-dug hole. Enemies, however, can walk over the holes and will fill up a hole unless it is complete. Once the enemy is in a hole, other enemies can't walk over it. If you don't knock them down, they will climb up the hole and fill it. You can fill the hole yourself using the shovel again on the existing hole. If you start digging and an enemy comes, you will manage to completely dig the hole and capture it. However, if two enemies come at once, only one will be caught in your digging while the other will reach you, and we all know what happens if an evil apple reaches you.
Ordinary apples are destroyed once you knock them down, but later on harder enemies will appear that require a deeper fall. This is done by digging holes that are vertically lined up. The longer the fall, the more points you get. You can fall through the holes without consequences, even if you line up all five holes. If an enemy falls on another enemy, both are destroyed. This way you can destroy harder enemies or even three enemies at once (if two of them are below). However, this doesn't work if the fall is not fatal for the falling enemy (meaning that if a harder enemy falls down only one floor and doesn't die, it won't kill his buddy that was passing by below). Don't try falling on enemies yourself - you are not Mario and you are not facing some cute turtles; these apples are mean! They must all be taken care of and it's far from easy. You have a limited amount of time for each level and if you lose a life, the timer doesn't reset, but all enemies do, and it can be very frustrating if you lose a life and there are only a couple of apples left. Luckily, you get more than enough time to complete each level. Still, it soon becomes very hard. If Lode Runner wasn't challenging enough for you, this game may be able to provide the challenge you were looking for.
CGA graphics and a few short tunes are surely more than satisfying for 1982. When you lose a life, the game will change the level layout by switching up to four different colors, so don't let this surprise you. However, you will need some time to adapt to the controls and game mechanics, since moving and using the shovel may be tricky, especially when using the fire button again before the digging is over and the farmer starts filling up the hole, or the constant movement of the farmer. These things are not much of a problem; you just need a few plays to get used to them.
So, if you are not turned away by a very old game, you will surely have some fun with this one. Lovers of similar games won't make a mistake. Besides, you wouldn't be here in the first place if you weren't looking for simple and addictive entertainment. Now go and get them evil apples!
Use the Numpad arrows to move the farmer and SPACE as the fire button. Press Pause to pause the game.
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