Finding a completely unique looking and feeling game is a rare occurrence in recent years. Sure, there are innovations and the argument that “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” But, GRIME is definitely a title you haven’t seen before; both in gameplay and especially in style. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a game that pulled me in multiple directions while playing. Yes, this is a review, but it may also be my best chance to work through my mixed feelings on this impressive action-adventure and Metroidvania indie game.
A Wild, Wild World
As I made my way through GRIME, I found myself stopping at each story beat wondering “what is really happening here?” The story begins with a short cinematic of two beings, intertwining their… life force?… and creating a black hole that ends up being your main character’s head. It’s all very vague and is accompanied by very little dialogue. It makes more sense as the game progresses, but that took hours to uncover. You have to save colonies, smash big bosses to help free your new rock-like pals, and continue on to the next area. It’s far deeper than that, but I do feel that despite its very obtuse opening hours, the story is still worth cracking open.
Though I was quite confused for most of the first few hours of GRIME, things begin to click as you make your way through this bizarre world. Did I mention that it takes place in a deep, rich, and compelling world? I honestly can’t think of anything quite like it. I’ll get more into the look and feel later on because the gameplay is where a few more of my conflicting feelings come forth.
An Acquired Taste
The Metroidvania genre has a huge library of games at this point and it continues to get bigger. But GRIME isn’t here just to bring through a world made up of organic and rock-like materials without bringing something new to the table in terms of gameplay.
On a basic level, you have two weapons you can take with you and each with a light and heavy attack. All something you’ve seen before. The variety of weapons is impressive though. Even within the first couple of hours, I had dual-wielding knives, a giant axe or hammer, and a lantern that stacked ability attacks and exploded on command. Each one also looks and feels drastically different, helping you not only expand your arsenal but approach the wide range of enemies with an equal amount of unique weaponry.
Where GRIME truly shines and sets itself apart is in its ‘absorb’ ability. This is a move you’ll have from the beginning and essentially acts like a parry. The key is to whittle down your opponent and then time your absorb to not only collect the game’s currency and experience but work your way towards learning and unlocking a new ability. Use your enemy’s abilities against them!
It’s a great idea, but the issue is how long it takes to get to that point. There are a lot of enemies and just as many abilities to acquire, though the game really forces you to work extra hard for each one. There is a multi-step process that felt like it took far too long. Once I was able to use them, they were a blast and really helped me through some of the toughest battles, I just wish they weren’t hidden behind such a cumbersome system.
Hard As A Rock
Like most (if not, all) Metroidvanias, GRIME has a checkpoint, save state, and fast travel system. I’ve mentioned it in previous reviews, but I truly dislike when a game, for example, pits you up against a difficult boss encounter and has you respawn several screens or areas away when you die. So not only am I stuck traversing some sections of the game over and over again, but GRIME also doesn’t replenish any items that you may have used before your death, creating an even more dire situation.
Now, I know this may be completely fine for many players out there, it’s just not a system I enjoy. I just would have had a better time immediately starting the boss encounter from the start without all the added time and what feels like (to me) added difficulty and frustration. The enemies, and specifically the boss fights, are great! Let me enjoy them more, don’t force me to grip my controller tighter and tighter each time I dive back into that area or arena.
In a way, it’s a shame my feelings toward those development decisions are so strong because nearly everything else in GRIME is fun and rewarding. Also don’t expect a walk in the park, it’s also one of the most difficult games in its genre; learning patterns, upgrading stats, absorbing and dodging, and mastering weapons, all of these are a key to success in a title that is here to provide a challenge from the start.
Dark and GRIME-y
As I mentioned earlier, GRIME looks and feels unique in almost every way. From the rock and rot-filled dungeon dives, to the baddies that come diving at you from every angle. It is a dark and moody action-adventure complimented by sound design that is incredibly detailed. Playing this game with headphones was satisfying and really paid off as I could hear approaching enemies on top of really gaining a sense of atmosphere with each and every crack, snap, and wallop, all the way down to a simple breeze or chime.
GRIME takes place in this half organic, half rock world. Many of the characters look like they could be ripped right out of a nightmare, but not necessarily in a bad way. Each and every one is designed to perfection and each one moves and shifts in its own way.
I’m down for a challenge in most games. I’ve found that the rewarding feeling is worth the effort. I just wish that GRIME‘s progression and the way it punishes you for failing weren’t so grading and didn’t feel like such a grind.
There’s alot to like here, whether it be the art style and presentation or the weapons and absorb ability. Unfortunately, I still remain conflicted. I enjoyed most of my time with the game, and I assume most people will as well. But for me, these games need to have certain design choices GRIME just didn’t have and that’s why I can only recommend this to people who are looking for a particular type of game.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5