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[Rapid Review] Pepper Grinder

Posted on March 28, 2024 by in Reviews, Switch eShop

Pepper Grinder review

System: Switch
Release date: March 28, 2024
Developer: Ahr Ech
Publisher: Devolver Digital

Cute girls and giant drills are like the ultimate combination of adventure, cuteness, and the ability to get through just about anything. Pepper and Grinder are an incredible duo: a young pirate, Pepper has a dream to amass mountains of treasure. Her side arm and companion, Grinder, is just the one that can help her get it all done – able to blast right through the earth and find gold and gems galore. Together they make a pretty tough pair, but is their adventure worth all that sand?

In Pepper Grinder, you’re always doing something. Sometimes several somethings. As I casually swim through tons of dirt per stage, I’m also picking up treasure, killing monsters, and keeping my eyes peeled for collectibles. While I’m incredibly tempted to continue snaking my way through the rubble like some sort of crazed mud seal, I do need to make sure to pop into every corner and check for hidden items or areas to explore. Pepper Grinder boasts a lot of collectibles and each level has a number of skull coins that can be collected and later redeemed at shops. Well-designed and somewhat fun to just mess around in, the game’s levels can seem short sometimes, but usually that means that I’ve completely missed out on an area because I was too busy snaking my way quickly through the sand, got wrapped up in trying to be super cool and fast, and forgot to explore a little. This does not pad my pockets with as much treasure, and I need to work on that.

Pepper Grinder review 1

Treasure collecting is important, not just in that it’s Pepper’s main motivation for journeying out in the first place, but also in that you can use most of your finds to purchase items from shops as you progress through the game. The shop system is very simple, just walking up to the item you’d like to purchase. You’ll be able to spend the treasure and giant coins that you’ve collected in exchange for tiny gacha machine style collectibles, character customization items to change Pepper’s hair and cloak, and small upgrades like temporary HP. The extra HP are quite useful early on when you’ve not unlocked other abilities and are just sort of gaining your bearings.

While bad controls easily stand out on almost any game, Pepper Grinder doesn’t suffer at all from inconsiderate use of the Switch’s controller scheme. So much so that it’s one of the few times I’ve picked up a game and immediately felt like the controls stood out as astoundingly good. The character doesn’t ever feel clunky or too buttery during platforming segments. Controlling Grinder’s propulsion isn’t super easy per se, but it feels natural and its easy to learn how to use the abilities you unlock over the course of the game. I can’t say enough that the game simply feels great to play.

Pepper Grinder review

The only way I could explain this combination of platforming and, well, something that reminds me a bit of if you were playing Ecco the Dolphin, but as a ground-dwelling critter like a cute Dunsparce from Pokemon… is, that Pepper Grinder is a wonderfully crisp experience that feels absolutely amazing. Sailing through levels to collect treasure and collectibles is a blast and the refreshing kind of fun that I haven’t experienced too often as of late. The platforming bits are fun, and being able to use Grinder’s momentum and skills to solve puzzles and grab those skull tokens is downright satisfying.

There will be moments you are looping through dirt for fun, and there will be moments you loop in absolute frustration over trying 85 times to get a single skull coin, but I can’t say that I haven’t genuinely enjoyed myself through the entire experience. Pepper Grinder isn’t a very long game, but when you consider that this was made by a small team with one developer coding most of it, I’m honestly impressed at the level of polish that I’m experiencing.

This game has a wonderful aesthetic. Minimalist pixel graphics allow colors to pop in fun ways, and also allow for detailed sprite work to capture the player and convey the importance of what you’re experiencing. Pepper Grinder is a fun little romp, and reminds me of simple times playing SNES games as a kid in the 90s. Have we experienced games like this one before? Pieces of it, sure! Pick this one up if you liked the Mine Cart levels in Donkey Kong Country. If you ever played Ecco the Dolphin. If you liked Dig Dug. I lost track of how many things I was happily reminded of as an older gamer, and I hope this blend of retro gameplay with the boon of modern controls really speaks to your heart like it did to mine.

The Verdict

If there are other worlds in the universe that harbor life, I hope that on one of them that all of life’s problems can be solved with an over-sized and self-perpetuating drill that can propel you forward into both life and adventure. While the existence of this planet is highly unlikely, and the probability of me finding a way there before my own natural expiration is so inconsequential a number that I cannot state it, I can at least find some solace in just replaying Pepper Grinder.

Pepper Grinder copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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