Author Topic: Pepper Grinder (Switch) Review  (Read 587 times)

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Offline NWR_Neal

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Pepper Grinder (Switch) Review
« on: March 28, 2024, 08:00:00 AM »

A smart, concentrated blast of drill platforming glory.

Pepper Grinder is a game that fits into that special category of Nintendo console indie where it heavily evokes an old Nintendo game, except for once it isn’t just Metroid or Mario. This time it’s Drill Dozer, a Game Freak-developed Game Boy Advance game, but while that serves as a good shorthand for Pepper Grinder’s setup, the games themselves largely just share drills and a 2D perspective in common. Pepper Grinder is a level-based side-scroller where you dance across the screen driving your drill through the ground in enemies in a borderline balletic fashion.

Pepper Grinder makes it easy to sink into, as you dig your drill into the ground and wipe out enemies, collect coins, and seek out special pirate coins nestled in every level. While the overall experience only lasts a few hours, the game is consistently inventive, tossing out new twists and additions to the drilling gameplay, usually in the form of attaching your drill to a vehicle or item. Romping through the main path across four worlds is relatively straightforward, but even more fun can be had engaging in some speedrunning or scouring for the pirate coins in levels. Those special coins can unlock other levels that are usually a little harder than the norm.

The special sauce of Pepper Grinder is the style. Visuals and music combine into a distinctive look that gels with the gameplay perfectly. The pixel art is a little grungy and squiggly in a way that makes the drill movement look as good as it feels. Movement is joyful, especially as you start to make use of boosts and grapples and all sorts of mechanical embellishments.

While no difficulty setting exists, there’s enough challenge in here to not be a breeze, but enough help if you’re having trouble. Some of the bosses are quite challenging, but if you get stuck, you can use in-game currency to buy more health points. Even still, the bosses generally fall into the style of you have to avoid them for a while and wait for a very small opening to attack them. Sometimes that opening isn’t clear at first and you might have to wait for a lot of the same attack patterns to happen before you know what to do. It’s just personally not my favorite kind of boss fight style. Additionally, I ran into a bothersome glitch that made the final boss a bear, but to the developer’s credit, a fix is on the way (out on Steam but due to the patch pipeline on Switch, it isn’t live as of writing though it should be live around launch).

If you’re into unique and creative takes on platforming, Pepper Grinder is well worth jumping (or rather, drilling) into. I’m not the biggest fan of the boss fights (especially the one that currently glitches out), but overall, this is a good grind from start to finish. I’d love to see more takes on drill-based platforming along these lines, though the tight package developer Ahr Ech has put together is a concentrated blast of fun.

Neal Ronaghan
Director, NWR

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