Published on April 7th, 2023 | by Ben Veress
Gripper Review (PC)
Summary: Gripper is a fairly fun and unique game, however, my main drawback is its price.
If you’re on a Hi-Fi Rush binge, and looking for games with a similar aesthetic, Gripper might scratch that itch.
Gripper is a single-player, bullet hell racing game set in an oppressive dystopian sci-fi future ruled by a tyrannical A.I. If you’ve seen 9 or Akira, this setup might feel familiar.
The game opens with your character None receiving messages from your parents whom None has for some reason grown estranged from. After a warning message from None’s mother to stay away from home, he suddenly spawns into this new world and encounters the A.I robot Zero that has destroyed it.
After attempting to fight the Tron-like monster, you are easily defeated and crippled. Fortunately, you’re saved by your childhood toy Cat-Kit, which has been repurposed into a sadistic sassy robot similar to the Doggonroppa bear.
Gripper reminds me a ton of those really great Indie games from 2010 that showcased great innovation, a campy yet charming story, beautiful art design and one-of-a-kind gameplay. Although this unique gameplay does have significant quality of life drawbacks, which made the game much harder than it needed to be and really impacted my enjoyment of the game.
After being brutally murdered by Zero, you are resurrected and connected to your bike. Over the course of the game after each boss, you’ll unlock upgrades and new abilities that will help you fight the next boss, or rematch old bosses for new ability points that you can use to upgrade your health or combat abilities.
Your key mechanics in combat though will be drifting for control and as the name of the game suggests, gripping onto objects that you can throw at the boss. If you can get a hold of this ability, you will love the game. Personally, I found it to be really clunky and inconsistent to use on a gamepad. The sensitivity for aiming is way too fast to get precise aiming to work. The aim of the grip is also inconsistent. In boss battles, they’ll enter a stage where you’re meant to grip onto them and pull off a power core. Even if you’re aiming at the boss, this can sometimes whiff or stop too short. I would really love an aim assist or an option to reduce the sensitivity in a future patch because this really hindered my enjoyment of the game.
Damage is another thing in boss fights that might feel unfair. There were definitely moments I felt that it was impossible to not take damage while a boss was supposed to be in its vulnerable state. The first boss is a good example of this as it’ll enter dased modes, giving you a window to pull off a leg, however you’ll get swarmed by spider creeps that explode while you do this. You can take down the boss by throwing projectiles at them, but this takes way too long, and it will turn into a DPS race as healing is very limited on the field, and you will get overwhelmed by creeps if you’re not careful.
I did however love the racing section in between bosses. To draw direct comparisons, they will feel familiar to anyone that’s played KOTOR’s swoop races or Kingdom Hearts gummi ships. You dodge objects as they’re thrown at you and you have to complete quick time events suddenly while keeping track of these obstacles like ice pillars, laser beams or retracting walls.
Gripper nails these areas I think, and they always felt rewarding to complete.
Gripper’s story is fairly straightforward, letting you dive straight into the action. Your goal in the game is to collect four modules from Zero’s minions. After collecting these modules can you attempt to save your parents and heal the world/
After each boss, you’re drip-fed more story about None’s character and his estrangement from his parents.
The game is relatively short however, with some playthroughs taking only an hour to complete, so there isn’t a lot of room for nuance in the answer unfortunately, and I felt like it was a bit unfulfilling.
Art Design & Music
Despite clunky gameplay and an average story, what really makes Gripper shine is its fantastic art design and score. I was consistently impressed with the character and boss designs in the game and the cutscene stills.
There are some incredible settings and the boss arena’s in this game. The bosses themselves may be simple, but they were still very memorable, my personal favourite being the third boss.
If you’re a big fan of Hi-Fi Rush, Hades and Ratchet & Clank, you’ll really gravitate towards this game’s art design I think.
Overall I think Gripper is a fairly fun and unique game, however, my main drawback is its price. For $29.50 AUD, I don’t believe the game is providing that much value for its asking price, given that you can beat the game in only an hour or two. Sure you can farm old bosses, but you’d have to really be in love with the game to fight the same boss over and over again, and unfortunately, I wasn’t.