Pepper Grinder Review – A Short Grind

Pepper Grinder Review - A Short Grind

To the great credit of the development team at Ahr Ech, Pepper Grinder is most definitely a unique title. In November of 2022, Pepper Grinder was revealed to the world, and it resonated with gamers new and old. For the experienced crew, you could see strands of Ecco The Dolphin DNA pushing through the flashy modern exterior, while for the younger crowd, it was a stylish, fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping gameplay experience that was a significant draw. Now that Pepper Grinder is here though, do the nostalgic elements or the modern stylings give the game the required longevity to be anything more than a quick fix of fun?

Players assume the role of Pepper, a sassy young woman, who washes ashore on a mysterious island littered with violent Narlings (anthropomorphic narwhals?) From here your presence is anything but welcomed, however, after managing to get your hands on a gnarly-looking power drill, Pepper now has the ability to grind her way through swathes of enemies, collecting as much pirate treasure as she can find in her journey off the island. The plot is one of the most wafer-thin, and insignificant that I’ve encountered in many years, but is unobtrusive from beginning to end, allowing the gameplay, the real reason people are playing the game, to take centre stage.

From the first moment that Pepper revs her newly acquired drill, the player knows that they’re in for a rock-and-roll ride. Mechanically, it’s pretty simple to describe the way to play Pepper Grinder, but in action it’s much harder to execute. The drill can power through soil with ease, and so the player will regularly need to dive at some turf, start their engine and direct themselves through some gravity defying environments, snaking around and through obstacles, taking out Narlings along the way as you endeavour to complete one of twenty core levels in the game. Within each level there are five golden skull coins to collect, which, along with gems you collect along the way, can be spent on a golden key, which opens an additional level in each world, stickers (and a corresponding sticker page) for collecting, as well as health bonuses for those in need of some extra support. Finding the golden coins of each level can be challenging at times. While some will be found in plain sight and the challenge is simply to navigate your way towards them, others are hidden behind environmental obstacles, nad it’s investigating the world around you that will lead to stumbling upon them.

The game is most certainly stylish though. Pepper Grinder’s pixel-art design, combined with the wide colour-palette applied makes the game a looker, especially when you’ve developed momentum while playing and the world whizzes by at speed. The sounds of the drill, from the initial revs, to the way it crunches through the terrain, through Narlings, and against surfaces that it can’t penetrate, sound incredibly genuine, while the soundtrack makes the adrenaline bubble away inside you, leaving you constantly hungry for one more level.

Pepper Grinder is a great, fun, concept, that will, unforuntately, even after a mere 3-4 hour playthrough, still outlast it’s welcome by an hour or so. With two mechanics, one making up 95% of the playing time, driving the experience, players will quickly grow weary of the fact that there weren’t any other systems implemented to change things up a bit. Bursting through the underground is a lot of fun, and the rapid speed of progression will keep you consistently engaged throughout, but upon completion, and after overcoming a seriously unbalanced final boss, you’ll likely be left with a hollow feeling, knowing that Pepper Grinder could have been more.

Pepper Grinder Review Box

Pepper Grinder was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code kindly provided by Devolver Digital.

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