Pepper Grinder Review (Switch eShop)

Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/untethered)

Back in the good old days when the Game Boy Advance was Nintendo's flagship handheld console, Game Freak (yes, the Pokémon people) released a creative little platformer called the Drill Dozer. Putting you in the role of a slightly crazy girl who tears apart stages and enemies alike with a powerful workout, it quickly established itself as an all-time classic thanks to its unique take on platforming, though it wasn't popular enough to warrant a sequel. Now, nearly 20 years later, an indie developer named Ahr Ech has decided to create Pepper Grinder, a kind of spiritual sequel. Continuing in the spirit of last year's platformers while bringing in plenty of great new ideas of its own, Pepper Grinder is an excellent new entry into the genre that we highly suggest you consider picking up.

The story takes place in a world of islands where piracy is rampant. You play as a quiet adventurer named Pepper, who collects a pile of loot not by taking it from others, but by discovering it in various ancient caches. During a storm, Pepper was shipwrecked on the beach by these goofy, narwhal-like creatures called Narlings, who raided her ship while she was unconscious and stole all her treasure. When Pepper comes, she soon discovers a mysterious drilling device called the Grinder, and sets out on a revenge mission to destroy the Narlings and reclaim their riches.

Pepper Grinder Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/untethered)

Pepper Grinder is a classic 2D platformer that takes you on a linear journey through levels spanning different themed worlds. Although, unlike most platformers, jumping is almost never emphasized here – most of the emphasis is placed on Grinder's chaotic strength and ability to withstand almost anything. There's a frenetic fun to Pepper Grinder's gameplay that's rarely seen in other platformers, and a lot of it has to do with its reliance on sharp reflexes.

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A bit like a classic My voice In games, level designs are often defined by fast-paced sections interspersed with slower-paced sections where you're supposed to catch your breath. But when the time comes for it He goes, Pepper Grinder is not the type of grinder that gives you a lot of time to calculate the right timing. Once you're under the ground, you press the throttle to the floor and you go forward whether you want to or not, all you have to do is leave Just Enough time to react to the obstacles rushing towards them.

It's a testament to Pepper Grinder's excellent controls that it makes the overall experience so enjoyable, that you spend much of your time holding on for dear life. For one thing, the controls are very easy to get to grips with – just hold down the right trigger to spin the drill up, and you can crank the motor up a bit by tapping “B” for a sudden big burst of speed which is great for you. Nailing those jumps between the holes. At the same time, the physics are as responsive and tight as you'd expect in a high-intensity platformer, though you never feel like you're… completely While controlling wild exercises, there is a feeling that you have enough control to always direct it where you want it to go.

The high-level design is one of Pepper Grinder's highlights, and this goes a long way towards making it a unique and enjoyable experience. Each level introduces some new stage gimmicks, such as an early stage centered around Donkey Kong Country-style barrel explosions or another stage where you can turn your drill into a minigun with infinite ammo, and this wealth of ideas gives Pepper Grinder great variety. However, no matter the new flavour, there's always a delicate balance between exploration and action, giving each stage a great pace that never feels too fast or too slow.

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To add even more replay value, there are plenty of additional collectibles and challenges to overcome if you think your skills are sharp enough. Each stage contains five hidden Skull Coins that you can use to purchase items in a shop such as cosmetic outfit changes for Pepper or keys that unlock hidden levels, while you can spend all the treasures you get from stages on a gacha that will give you stickers for use in photo mode or temporary health boosts Which will increase your maximum health. Additionally, beating each stage once will unlock the Time Attack mode which contains some items harsh Requirements to obtain the Gold Medal, requiring mastery of both stage layout and Grinder movement mechanics.

Pepper Grinder Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/untethered)

Visually, Pepper Grinder takes much of the high-quality art style seen in games like The Mageseeker, One Step From Eden, or Grapple Dog, and in the best ways it looks like a lost GBA game. Bright colors only Pop At every stage, especially when there's a treasure explosion from another Narling you wasted with Grinder, but it's the little details and animation that take this visual style from good to great. Things like the dynamic camera zoom when you deliver the final blow to a boss, or the way the menu UI shakes, add that extra bit of personality and manic energy that helps Pepper Grinder stand out from its peers.

Pepper Grinder also features an outstanding soundtrack that perfectly matches the raw energy and creativity of the gameplay with an eclectic musical lineup that throws plenty of great ideas your way. It features elements of drum and bass, house, pop, jazz, funk and more, all of which merge into something that sounds surprisingly cohesive considering the range. You simply never know what kind of music might be playing next, yet it always seems to fit perfectly with the action on screen.

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The only real (rather minor) complaint we have about the Pepper Grinder is that there simply aren't enough of them. It should only take you about four to six hours to beat, and maybe a few more hours if you collect everything and hit the gold times in the time attack. Of course, it's always better for a game to go out on a high note rather than overstay its welcome, but with the wealth of ideas and excellent gameplay here, we can only hope there's another world or two to flesh them out.

Pepper Grinder Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/untethered)

We ran into some minor technical issues in the review version as well, including a glitch during the final boss fight that made the boss invincible. However, they amount to nothing more than minor annoyances, and we've been assured that a patch to resolve these issues is already in the works to be released shortly after launch.

Conclusion

Pepper Grinder is a wonderfully innovative and fun platformer that no fan of the genre will want to miss. Its runtime may be a little short, but in the end it's a very fun, challenging and highly replayable game with a lot of personality. If you think you'd be interested, we suggest you pick up Pepper Grinder at your next opportunity (there's a downloadable demo if you're on the fence).

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