PC Games

Published on April 19th, 2024 | by James Davie

Pepper Grinder Review (Switch)

Pepper Grinder Review (Switch) James Davie

Summary: Pepper Grinder is fun but short!


Fun grinding!

Let’s get one thing straight before diving into this review, Pepper Grinder is NOT what its title suggests. Pepper Grinder is not about seasoning levels to perfection in black freckles of peppercorns, it’s about a seafaring wench called Pepper who makes friends with a pneumatic drill called Grinder-and therefore you’ve got the game’s title Pepper Grinder! Isn’t that genius? Combining both Pepper and Grinder results in a 2D platformer where the former uses the latter to travel across levels and drill the critters and crawly-things to kingdom come, but is the novelty of Pepper’s Grinder a one-trick pony, or is this drill hiding a few surprises?

Context is minuscule in Pepper Grinder, you play as a young lass named Pepper who finds herself brushed ashore. Soon after, Pepper falls down a chasm where she discovers her new auger and starts drilling through sand walls so you can majestically sling merrily through levels. The plot maybe wafer-thin, but luckily you don’t need context to enjoy what happens when Pepper and Grinder unify to create a quirky and often times exhilarating indie platforming experience.

The zippy and joyous platforming Pepper Grinder serves up is akin to riding on the front cart of a rollercoaster, as there’s a tremendous sense of unpredictable speed when Grinder drills through sand walls, and charges down underwater to spear through unsuspecting crustaceans before blasting up and over cliffsides. Suffice to say Pepper Grinder feels very much like trying to wrestle a high-speed automotive with a mind of its own, but instead of feeling like an uncontrollable mess, it feels liberating and sorta therapeutic as well.

The ease and free-flowing essence of Pepper Grinder ensures that while you may still need to be mindful of all the pestilence that can menacingly give you ouchies as you slice through the sparkling ocean waters and tropical-themed levels, you’re otherwise given free reign to carve into anything your drill can burrow into including vines, underwater entities, copious walls of sand, and canisters that’ll fling Pepper gracefully through the wind like she was an aqua-haired bullet pinging through the air.

Pepper Grinder exudes indie ingenuity not only through its magnificent drilling doodad, but also through the meticulousness of the level design. Instances where volcanoes spit out fireballs that when dodged, open up channels you can swim through to collect crystals are exciting, making the level scenery as unpredictable and dangerous as the nefarious and suspicious behaviours of the pesky aquatic life.

You could liken Pepper Grinder to an indie-fied Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze as it’s just as liberating and gorgeous to explore as Nintendo’s most-recent outing for its iconic ape. The assortment of tropical environments and the riveting platforming gameplay reflects Nintendo’s flagship primate rather well, especially for a half-pint sized platforming romp.

When your primary tool for platforming in Pepper Grinder is a wily and hard-to-tame drill, some misgivings about traversal do apply. The finnicky and inexactness of timing drill hops and leaps can be cause for marginal frustration at times. Momentum is needed to vault Pepper and Grinder up and onto ledges, and this can feel zippy and delightful if pulled off, and irksomely frustrating if not. This slipperiness doesn’t ruin the brilliantly buttery flow Pepper Grinder relishes in, but from time to time you might wish the controls felt a little tighter.

The five boss battles in Pepper Grinder exercises Pepper’s use of Grinder in tests that encourage you to find and grind exposed weak points until their oversized health bars are fully depleted. Each battle squares you up against a foe that differs in size, yet the same tactics are employed to damage and dispose of them all, so even though they look diverse and challenging, they require nothing more than simple timing and pattern recognition.

Don’t get too mad at Pepper Grinder for  its faults though, it’s a relatively short and breezy curio, with a completion time of a couple of hours. The length is a bit disappointing because the adventure is over all too quickly, and such innovative platforming deserves to shine on for longer, but the promise demonstrated by this  dinky 2D wonder should mean a follow-up brings more sustenance to this delicious yet insubstantial banquet.

When an indie title comes along that dares to deliver a sensationally speedy effort coupled with a tool that spotlights its exhilarating gameplay, you know you’ll be in for one heck of a treat. Pepper Grinder really is that kind of treat, and while it is short and carries a few bugbears with it, you won’t soon forget Pepper Grinder. The fantastically drill-tastic gameplay will keep you coming back again and again, but not for long, as you’ll just wish there was more to go around. Pepper Grinder is too brief to fully satisfy, but on the other hand, you’ll want to lap it all up regardless. Ultimately Pepper Grinder is seasoned beautifully, but this dish could’ve used some more fiber to encourage peristalsis.

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