When I first laid my eyes on Grapple Dog I thought, “whoa, Celeste-like gameplay but with a dog? AND a grapple shot!?” While the game doesn’t quite reach those heights in gameplay or storytelling, there’s still a ton of fun to be had in a colourful, charming, and easy-to-play package.
Grapple Dog-go To The Rescue!
Developed by Medallion Games, the first thing you’ll notice about Grapple Dog is it’s aesthetic; it harkens back to the early 2000s and the days of the Gameboy Advance and eventual DS days. The thick, but pixelated outlines give the game a hand-drawn feel with bright and colourful characters and environments. All of this, and some bobbing good tunes, help bring the wacky world of Grapple Dog to life as you swing your way through an absurd world of robots and a high-flying dog.
Absurd isn’t a knock on this game either, it’s actually one of the things that charmed me the most and brought me back to 2002 when I was playing my GBA on my grade 9 lunch break. Essentially, there’s a robot apocalypse and it’s up to this orange pooch named Pablo, to get a hold of an ancient grapple hook and swing his way from left to right and save the day.
Swinging Into Action
Grapple Dog doesn’t waste any time getting you into the story, which in turn throws you right into the grapple mix and the heart of the gameplay. It’s fairly standard, and a lot of what you’ve seen before: jump, wall-jump, ground pound, and of course the grapple hook. You can fire it straight up or at a 45-degree angle on Pablo’s left or right.
There’s also a momentum meter next to your health paw/bar on the screen, giving you a way to tell if Pablo is going to make the next jump or swing. The system itself works and makes sense, but I sometimes felt like the momentum was working against me. After swinging back and forth on the hook to launch onto a further platform, most of my momentum I built up is gone the second the dog’s feet hit the ground. What I missed was a way to keep the flow going more easily in order to quickly hop, jump, or swing over the next obstacle.
It’s more of a “feel” that I was missing, the platforming itself is still very fun. Largely, Grapple Dog brings a challenging, but fair set of levels to explore. The worlds bring a range of new challenges that help you build on abilities you’ve gained along the way, each one complete with gems to collect that will unlock new areas and bonus stages. This also brings some replay value to the game. Like platformers before it, Grapple Dog allows you to return and complete near-perfect runs, or collect any hidden items you may have missed your first time around.
With solid level design, fun and easy-to-understand mechanics, a charming looking and feeling world, and some replayability, Grapple Dog is a great look back for people of a certain age and an even better way to get a younger generation into platformers that don’t star Mario.
Despite having some hang-ups on the controls and feeling limited by the systems in place, I still felt like I was having fun. Grapple Dog still made me want to swing my way into the next stage, crush the next robotic enemy, and save the world like a real good doggo!
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]