Pepper Grinder

Review: Pepper Grinder

Pepper Grinder is a hoot. Devolver’s knack for finding and publishing some of the best titles doesn’t go unnoticed. By best, I mean video games that are both engaging and weird. Just look at what they’ve put out over the last few years. Just look at Gunbrella.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when picking up Pepper Grinder, but from its earliest moments, it provides some excellent platforming that is both entertaining and thrilling.

Pass the Pepper Grinder, Please

You control Pepper, who uses a drill called Grinder to navigate various levels. The goal is to stop an antagonist who commands a group of monsters called Narlings that have stolen something from Pepper.

That’s about the gist of what to expect narratively because Pepper Grinder is light on narrative but heavy in being fun as you move through various terrains to get back what was taken from you.

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The Grinder is a tool used for traversal that can also act as the primary weapon. Adopting specific approaches to defeat different enemies is necessary as they have unique defences. The main enemies are Narlings with horns on their heads, which can hurt the player in a head-on collision. Although the regular enemies are not incredibly resilient, they present new challenges that require different strategies to overcome and continue progressing through the stages.

On most levels, you may find yourself boring through rocks, and you might find this tedious, yet it rarely is. Alongside drilling through rocks, the Grinder evolves throughout the campaign, morphing into various tools, including a grappling hook to help Pepper move through levels. The fun doesn’t stop there because, in later stages, it turns into a machine gun, which feels heavily inspired by some seriously retro titles like Contra and Metal Slug.

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Pepper, Pepper, Pepper

Pepper Grinder features four different worlds that are divided into biomes. These biomes include a mountainside with lush greenery and rocks, a lava area, a snowy valley, and an urban town with buildings. Each biome has unique mechanics or devices that you use to move forward—for example, a snow sled in the snowy valley (with an added snowmobile!).

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The drill mechanic is a significant element in the game, as it powers all the devices and is used to wind up and propel Pepper forward. In place of the traditional flagpost, players must hoist a flag with their drill at the end of each level.

Also, you’ll face a handful of boss battles that gradually increase in difficulty. These are some of the best moments I had with Pepper Grinder, as it felt like a worthy test of what I’d learned up until that point. For example, you’ll encounter the first boss battle, which involves dodging projectiles by moving through the soil and attacking from the underside when the opportunity arises. As you progress further, the challenge ramps up alongside it, and it’s some of the more refreshing moments I encountered during my seven hours playing to credits. Later-stage bosses have some great mechanics worth experiencing rather than being described to a reader.

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Each stage in the game has five skull coins that you can collect. These coins are usually hidden behind false walls or at the end of challenging platforming sections. You can use the coins you collect to unlock bonus levels in the in-game shop. To unlock one bonus level, you will need to spend ten coins. There is one bonus level per world.

Beyond the four bonus levels in Pepper Grinder, there isn’t much to spend your hard-earned gems and skull coins on. You can purchase ordinary cosmetics, such as palette-swapped hair and clothing for Pepper, character stickers and level landscapes for your sticker book. After completing the campaign, the time attack mode became available, which pulled me back in for an additional hour or so. This mode demands pinpoint power drilling to earn medals in its time challenges, making it more exhilarating than the regular game.

Verdict

Pepper Grinder is another excellent addition to Devolver’s catalogue. It starts strong and holds the gas for its entire runtime, which is thankfully on the shorter side. The Grinder is an excellent tool, and its various abilities deliver several exciting moments.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PC

Pepper Grinder
Review: Pepper Grinder
Liked
Great gameplay
The Drill is a lot of fun to use
Wonderful visuals
Didn't Like
Extra content is not interesting