Apico is a game I’ve been interested in for some time. Blending little bits from Stardew Valley and Forager with an undeniable love for wildlife has given it an instant and lasting charm. This managed to resonate with me well over a year ago. The issue with games that have a unique pull is a lot of expectations are put on them to be better than their competitors. Apico is better.
After changing how you look and picking your name, you are given a very small intro to the game. Upon contacting your grandparents about your interest in beekeeping, you receive a ticket to a quaint island filled with just a few inhabitants and a forest full of bees. You are given a small book filled with tasks, and this is the depth of your tutorial. I love this.
Apico isn’t too bothered about holding your hand throughout the experience. It just sort of lets you get on with it. The tasks give you special items as a reward but rarely feel mandatory. You can ignore it entirely and just get into the world. As you continue to pick up new items and components, you will slowly unlock new recipes that let you explore more of the game.
In a way, life is cyclical in Apico. You are constantly building towards the next objective. From here, you unlock a new challenge, which lets you get a new objective. This system is a lot of fun, even as it slows down. Early game, you are met by constant growth, that grinds to a halt quite quickly. This tediousness can often be negated by more systems to work out. This being said, parts of the experience are noticeably slower than others.
Living in the Moment
Apico’s gameplay is simple but effective, often not requiring more than a few buttons at a time. You can scroll through your Hotbar with your scroll wheel and use your items with a simple click. Outside of being able to access your books and opening up your inventory, you can mostly pick it up within a few seconds.
Apico is a lot more involved than you might initially suspect from its gameplay and charming visuals. Once you peel back the layers of island design and beekeeping, you are met with often fairly complex bee crossbreeding – where you are tasked with putting bees under the microscope to figure out how likely they are to pass on certain genes. From here, you place them with the right bees to get an entirely new breed. This is an excellent addition that adds depth to the game, even if it feels necessary to really progress.
The crossbreeding system sums up what makes Apico work so well. Initially, the game takes many of the cliches of its genre, only to build upon them in interesting new ways. Chopping down trees to build blocks to make your home is nothing new but the way it plays with the confines of those four walls is fascinating. It grabs what makes us feel comfortable and pushes just outside of the box.
Making a colony
This depth hits much harder the more you play Apico. You can harvest tonnes of resources from your bees, that can be used to sell for better items, travel to different islands, or just hoard them to your heart’s content. As you discover more bees, you can repopulate your land by setting them free, collecting unique resources, and unlocking more items to further understand and develop your little island. You can use honey and water to make Apicola, and infuse that cola to get special effects.
You get accustomed to the way the game works, then it peels back just a little more of what lies under the hood to give you an entirely new mechanic to explore. Once you have figured out how the island works and think you have everything set up in the best place, you learn about new islands, automation and so much more. The way that Apico gently pushes more and more onto you leaves you working out complex systems and planning days ahead without ever losing your footing. It is a wonderful exercise in video game plate spinning and never leaves you wondering where all that china has flown off to.
As you find yourself waiting for resources to come in, Apico can occasionally slow down a little too much. This being said, I was always finding something new to plan out or work towards. I often found myself using the nighttime when bees were asleep for myself. I would use it to work out just where I want to spend my next day. You can speed through the night by sleeping, but my character stayed up for more than a week straight, just exploring all there is to do.
Unfortunately, you tend to hit end-game with blunt force, immediately finding the confines of what Apico offers you. You can still discover all the different bees and flowers, but the objectives that kept you going stop coming in and the island feels just a little less magic. It’s still a lot of fun at this stage but not quite as wonderful as those opening hours.
Fortunately, the visuals and audio are just so charming. Influenced by the likes of the Minecraft soundtrack, Apico’s score is laid back, hopeful and infectiously wistful. Its composer, Mothense, uses heavy synth and piano to inject a certain introspection to the soundtrack. This allows you space to just relax and think. Taking a step back from brutal shooters and intense RPGs, Apico offers something few games do – joy.
Apico Review – Conclusion
Apico is a wonderfully charming game with so much love in every pour. It’s a game that lets you connect not only through its systems but through the experience and atmosphere the devs want you to feel. In a period of my life where I have so many distractions and worries, Apico managed to carry me away for a few hours at a time. Everything just feels simple again.
It does have its own issues with pacing and balancing, but these criticisms seem minuscule when the base experience is just so lovely. You may not be able to connect to Apico as well if you don’t like games in its genre but if you do, this may just become your favorite.