Review: Pepper Grinder heats it up with some fun level design

Pepper Grinder

Sole developer Ahr Echs Pepper Grinder is another in Devolver Digital’s curated platformers with a twist on movement and enjoyable level design. This time, what you’d call the gimmick is the way you dig around and propel the main character around with a drill. 

Unlike last year’s Gunbrella, though, Pepper Grinder lacks a proper story and you pretty much get the same basic gameplay from beginning to end. There’s little evolution to the way that you move outside of having to sometimes boost yourself in order to surpass longer gaps. But it’s through its entertaining level design and clever bosses that it keeps you going until the end of this 5-ish-hour adventure.

You play as a treasure hunter gal who’s washed ashore and had all her loot stolen by pirates. Left to her own devices, she finds a drill and decides to do what any other videogame protagonist would do and chase after the darn scallywags. 

Her journey takes her through a number of colorful locations and lots of fun little platforming challenges that involve digging and propelling herself with the help of her new toy until she finds a flag to raise and call it a stage. At the end of every map, you’ll have to face a boss, and it’s where Pepper Grinder shines through with its design, having some creative uses of the protagonist’s drill as a weapon. 

Pepper Grinder
Okay, I have to admit I held my breath through this one section.

Every so often, you also run into stores where you can spend the coins that you collect and gain extra life pips, as well as cosmetic items to customize your look. Aside from those, you can also buy stickers to collect, and by finishing levels, you’ll get canvases where you can plop them and take pictures, a cute little feature that I’m sure some folks will get a kick out of.

Pepper Grinder offers a decent amount of challenge if you tackle it in a straightforward manner, but if you decide to 100% every stage, that’s where you’ll find the real meat of the game. By mastering the game’s flow to movement and speed, there’s a definite sense of joy that you’ll get out of making your way through screens without taking a hit.

While not the deepest – unintended pun! – game around, Pepper Grinder does provide a fun feast to the eyes if you enjoy pixel art. It’s easily one of the most colorful that you’ll play for sure. Its lower price is also very welcoming at 15 bucks regardless of the platform that you decide to play it on. For this review, I played the game on a Switch OLED in portable mode exclusively, and it’s a game that pops off the screen and plays very well on the system’s admittedly less than ideal controls.

Pepper Grinder
So pretty yet so dangerous…

In comparison to all other Devolver releases, Pepper Grinder would get lost in the shuffle somewhat, given that the initial impression is the one that stays throughout your time playing it. It doesn’t really innovate in terms of gameplay, but by offering some neat level design and boss encounters, you’ll find a decent amount of quality content to play for your gaming buck.

For what is on offer, there’s enough game to be had if you know what to expect coming in. It’s a cute game with a fun mechanic that is put through its motions well enough, but it lacks the depth to keep you coming back for more for more than the length of its campaign. 

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