- Developer: Capypara Games
- Publisher: CAPY
- Price: £15.09 / $19.99
- Release Date: 15/12/2020
- Review Code Provided by CAPY
Introducing Grindstone Switch Review
There’s several forms of vulgarity in this world. It’s what most take to looking into first when learning a new language. However, those that game have added two otherwise innocent words to their list of obscenities – mobile ports. Today I’m looking at one recently released on Nintendo Switch. Now before any of you click off, please read this review. I know those words caused you to turn away but give it a chance. I came into this questioning the quality of the title too. While I still found some flaws, I also had fun. So without further ado; grab a nice cup of coffee or tea, curl up, and join me as I dive in-depth into Grindstone.
Up We Go To the Top!
Grindstone follows a simplistic narrative. You’ll play as Jorj; he’s a mercenary for hire that has set off to earn cash. His ultimate goal is to be able to take his wife and child on a trip to an area known as Mudflats. In order to do this, he has to scale a mountain full of creeps and jerks – not making that up. Along the way, you might even come across another human. You do eventually, and he has one pun he’ll repeat ad nauseam. It’s daft and I‘d have loved variety – dad puns deserve better.
The gameplay loop Grindstone presents is much like the story; straightforward. Once you enter a level, you’ll be surrounded by creeps. In order to advance, you’ll need to murder the gross little buggers. To do so, you’ll need to chain several together. Do keep in mind that it’ll usually need to be those of the same colour. In other words, the blue creeps can only lead into another blue and so on. When I first began playing, I was a bit worried. I felt like this mechanic was going to be limiting. And indeed there were occasions I couldn’t move because a path hadn’t formed. I ended up dying a few times due to this random RNG.
Fortunately, there’s a way to deviate away from this commonly occurring, but never completely. There will still be moments when you’ll have no other choice but to reset, so keep that in mind. To have freedom with your movements, simply connect ten or more creeps together. In doing so, you’ll then create the games namesake – a grindstone. These let you to detour to another colour to continue your momentum. Basically, you’ll be able to link up blue and red thanks to these stones. This isn’t the only way to do so either!
Enter the Jerk!
Jerks are another enemy type you’ll encounter, and the requirement to kill them will differ from creeps. When I came face-to-face with one, I’d notice a number beneath its sprite. This always indicates the chain I’d need to link up to defeat it. For example, if it’s a five, I’ll need to build up a combo of that many before I can win the battle – the colour doesn’t matter. The jerk itself isn’t blue, yellow, purple, or red. They’re instead a unique shade, allowing them to function exactly like a grindstone. I liked the idea that I had to utilize these mechanics in order to move on to the next level. It forced me to think about my next step carefully – I appreciated the level of strategy introduced. It kept me engaged in the puzzle action.
However, you’ll encounter a few levels with obstacles. Some will have four jerks coming at you simultaneously as well. Because the areas are tiny by default, they shrink further with so much added on screen: stones, ice, wood, and other stuff. So I found myself being surrounded quickly. Couple this with sometimes not having a way to escape and death was the only way out. This sucked the fun out as it felt more luck based and not skill. At best, it was tedious and frustrating. Thankfully, it’s not widespread, with most of the stages being much more fair in the execution.
DON’T FORGET A SHIELD!
Destructible environments appear in a couple of levels. Much like Jerks, these will have a number underneath it to show its resilience. Destroying them will net you various types of items: bat wings, molten rocks, or golden ore. Apart from these, you may also get monster guts as you slash and rip through your enemies. Yeah, I didn’t mention earlier but the actual action of slicing through creeps is just bloody – I love it. After you’ve collected enough materials, return to the building at the base of the mountain to create equipment. You heard right; you’ll be able to forge swords, shields, arrows, and more. While none boost stats, they do grant nifty little perks such as: being able to void damage, slashing through a row of enemies, or instantly jumping to a far away spot. And it’s this very feature that immensely hinders Grindstone.
An Unbalanced Act!
Some of the aforementioned equipment need to be recharged manually. You do this by spending the in-game currency, as well as monster parts and environmental items. The biggest issue is the cost to do so with some is astronomical. On average, a level may grant you four grindstones. There are times you may only earn one. When you look through the prices to refill, they range from 100 stones, ten bat wings, and six molten rocks; to the reasonable ten stones, 1 bat wing, and 1 skull. I played for over 30 hours and I only have 800 stones. If I wanted to refill an item – to which some hold three to five charges – I’d be too broke to afford anything further. Because the only way to heal is to purchase a drink, I had to prioritize where my stones went. That said, you will periodically encounter a strange cyclops woman. Meet up with her and be transported to an area where you can collect a lot of stones. However, even then, it’s never enough.
My gripe is it rendered most of the equipment obsolete. It was too expensive to recharge an item that I opted never to try it out. While yes, some have reasonable prices, it’s crumbs in comparison to the expensive. I wanted to use the power-ups available and experiment to find the best combinations, but I felt I was actively being held back from doing so. Thankfully, there are those that’ll recharge between battles. And to be honest; since they can be used only once per level, it forced my attention. For me, I kind of like that. As I already said, I was both engaged and focused; this is exactly what I’d expect from a puzzle game.
Music to My Ears!
The score is a smorgasbord of differing tempos and speeds. One minute it could be a serene, peaceful melody. While other times, the tunes were techno. It was honestly a mixed bag for me, but there’s some real bangers here. The speakers on the Switch itself never did them any justice. So, I recommend headphones or surround sound; something that will help the bass hit hard.
The Linear Verdict Is…
Grindstone is honestly addictive and a lot of fun. I loved that it challenged me to think about the moves I make. It forced me to have a semblance of foresight – to plan ahead. However, I can not ignore the obvious flaws. I also feel that this is not a game meant for prolonged sessions. It’s still a mobile title at heart, and the repetition of puzzles does eventually get to you. The pricey equipment refills meant that experimenting was never accessible. I disliked the RNG and how at times, a stage would be littered with jerks. As they’d move in quickly, I’d get cornered and die. While it doesn’t do anything to set itself apart from other puzzle games, it’s still a fun time in short bursts.