Archery sims are few and far between. And it’s not hard to see why; the mechanics of the sport aren’t exactly the easiest to emulate within a virtual environment with limited control options. I’ve racked my brains, and the only decent examples that spring to mind are Sports Champions for PS3 – mostly thanks to the precision afforded by the Move Controller – and Bowmaster on iOS. So will MKO Games’ SplitApple (out now, $2.99) put a smile on the faces of archery buffs or make us quiver?
SplitApple greets the player with a rousing blast of grand, medieval-style music before packing you off to a back-yard setting for a quick round of target practise. This training ground is surrounded by rows of neighboring houses and features a tall apple tree overlooking the bulls-eye: your primary target throughout the game.
The game’s stylized, cartoony graphics are without a doubt one of its biggest plus-points. Animations and naturalistic physics are also bang-on – arrows rattle and vibrate upon making contact with any surface, the target board absorbs a speeding arrow’s force as it makes contact, the apple tree sways in different directions throughout your practice session and the clouds in the sky move in conjunction with the speed and direction of the wind displayed on the meter (more on that anon), a minor but significant detail worth mentioning. The music playing and birds chirping in the background fit in with the archery theme quite well, and are not distracting at the least.
Now, let’s get to the meat and bones of the game: controls and gameplay. SplitApple uses a strategically-placed vertical slider on the right hand side of your screen (when held in Landscape mode) to draw power into your shot. Aside from targeting the circular bulls-eye board, the apple tree behind it has 2-3 hanging fruits, ripe for being torn apart by a well-placed arrow.
The bulls-eye is divided into different sections – the center, smallest sections offering 8-10 points per shot and the larger concentric circles offering less points – while shooting an apple off the tree grants you a 30-point bonus. As you start to slide your finger from the top of the slider to the bottom, the game’s view slowly starts zooming your perspective towards your targeted area ahead of you with a circular reticule which acts as an aide to help your aim. Once zoomed in, you must physically use your device and its accelerometer to decide where you want to aim, keeping wind direction and speed in mind which are easily communicated to you via a meter on top of the screen. Once you’re ready to release your shot, you simply let go of the slider and off goes the arrow!
SplitApple offers three gameplay modes: Challenge, Time Trial and Survival. Challenge Mode is the standard “get a high-score” affair. Utilizing a total of 15 arrows, the bulls-eye board starts at a five-meter distance from you and moves away by 5 additional meters every three shots. Taking the later shots does in fact prove tricky with the distance and wind factoring in. At the end of your 15 shots, you’re presented with a complete summary of your shots and scoring. Time Trial starts you off with One Minute on the clock and at a fixed distance of 15m from the target board. Wind varies after each shot, and each apple shot down grants you a 20 second bonus. Lastly, Survival Mode starts you off with 9 arrows in your quiver and no time constraints. Each 9 or 10-point shot you land on the bulls-eye boards grants you an additional 2 arrows, as does each apple you shoot off the tree. After building up your score to 250 and 500 points, the target board is also pushed back to 20 and 25 meters respectively, making it hard to accumulate extra arrows by being unable to hit accurate shots at a distance.
The main gripe I had with SplitApple is that I simply lost interest in the game having spent as little as half an hour with it. After trying out Challenge and Time Trial modes for the first time, I never felt an urge to try to top my old high score. Survival mode is the only pillar holding this game up, at the moment, as it adds a bit of spice to the game simply because the challenge level ramps up nicely, and there is a certain amount of patience and visual calculation required to hit shots and earn extra arrows as the distance increases.
Another negative point I observed was how easily the apples can be shot off the tree once you know where to aim. I was able to pick off three apples in a row, WITH wind, quite easily in most rounds, so perhaps these should be a bit more elusive to the casual gamer and give skilled e-archers a sense of gratification if they do manage to hit them. Finally, I feel a huge reason for my lack of prolonged interest in the game was because I simply got bored by firing arrows away at one big stationary target. In my opinion, this game could be a lot more interesting if MKO Games borrowed a few features from Madden NFL’s Quarterback Drills like adding moving targets and perhaps power-ups in the near future. For example, flaming, multi and piercing arrows would be way cool!
iFanzine Verdict: Not exactly a bulls-eye, but SplitApple is an enjoyable, albeit extremely brief gaming experience. I reckon a few updates are all that stands between this one becoming a bonafide hit.