Back to the grind

A girl and her drill take on the world in Pepper Grinder. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
A girl and her drill take on the world in Pepper Grinder. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
The indies have always been a good source of single-idea-focused games.

Whereas AAA games try to build massive worlds with equally in-depth and interconnecting systems, indie games often like to take one idea and iterate on that idea, building the game around the one concept and attaching complexity. The problem with the indie model here is simple; finding interesting mechanics to continue your initial idea can either be extremely easy, or extremely hard, and neither is ideal.

Pepper Grinder is a fast-paced platforming game revolving around a girl, Pepper, and her giant drill, Grinder. She starts washed up on a beach and with locals nicking a large treasure chest, most likely from her. She is rightfully annoyed, but is cut off from chasing the thieves, so she picks up her drill and begins to chase them down.

The drill brings the main mechanic of the game into sharp focus. You can drill into soft earth, being dragged along behind it, before launching yourself out with a lot of force. You’ll often be chaining sequences of drilling together to make your way through levels. Later on, other mechanics, such as cannons from which to launch yourself, water to drop on lava to make it drillable, or platforms that you can move by jumping into them, are introduced. And, of course, no game is complete without a grappling hook showing up. The giant drill is also an effective weapon, should anyone be careless enough to get into range, but you are encouraged to attack from below through the earth, which is how you are expected you to damage all of the bosses. Overall, it is a fun platforming system with a few issues.

Throughout the levels, you can pick up gems, which translate to the game’s currency. You can spend this at the shop, but the shop is kind of useless. You can mostly buy only cosmetic stuff, stamps and clothes, but you can also buy a temporary shield, which can eat up to four hits. Generally though, I found myself never really dying, so this was kind of de facto unnecessary. At the shop, though, was also the secret level for the area, bought using skull coins found in hidden locations in the level, which encourages exploration. These secret levels often have a new mechanic, like the water-based one where you can skip across the water’s surface using the drill.

After beating a level, you can replay it in time-attack mode, a lovely throwback to games of the past. Beating the time-attack mode unlocks more items to fill out your collection of music and stamps.

Unfortunately, that’s about it. The game is very short, only lasting about two and a-half hours for the base story, and if you don’t care about the time attacks or stamp collecting, then you might feel rather short-changed. The game is also rather shallow. There are no upgrades, no reason to return to an older level, and new mechanics are dropped about as fast as they are introduced, staying around for a level or two at most. Combat is also a little half-baked, with the bosses being bland and uninteresting.

It’s a fast, concise experience with a few flaws, but that’s all. It doesn’t take any risks. It doesn’t allow itself to slow down and build up on the mechanics in an interesting way. It’s enjoyable, but not memorable. If you don’t mind the price of admission, then I don’t see a reason why this can’t be a fun distraction for a few hours.

 - By Michael Robertson



From: Ahr-Ech

For: PC, Switch


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