Many trendy indie video games are passionate fan homages to forgotten cult hits underappreciated of their day. Only recently, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk introduced again Jet Set Radio’s vibes for a brand new technology. And now, developer Ahr Ech’s Pepper Grinder revives the drill-based platforming of Drill Dozer, a 2006 Sport Boy Advance title developed by Sport Freak between Pokemon installments. We performed a short Pepper Grinder demo earlier than its 2024 launch and concluded that extra video games ought to offer you energy instruments. It is simply that enjoyable.
A Spicy World
The transient, three-level demo we performed didn’t give us a lot perception into Pepper Grinder’s plot, however we all know the essential premise. Enjoying because the shipwrecked Pepper, you will need to use a drill to journey the island and discover your treasure. Actually, it doesn’t should be extra difficult than that.
Pepper Grinder impresses with its daring and colourful pixel artwork. Expressive enemies emerge from the bottom. Environments crackle and shake as you tunnel ahead with large drive. Stellar sound design turns fixed whirring into music on your ears. It’s an indie sport that resembles your superior recollections of retro video games with out being beholden to their limitations. It’s like Shovel Knight, one other title that occurs to be about digging. We don’t know Pepper Grinder’s PC specs but, however we performed the demo on a Steam Deck at an ideal 60 frames per second.
The Day by day Grind
Just about all the pieces in Pepper Grinder revolves across the drill. Certain, you possibly can stroll ahead and carry out a tiny little hop. However when you must spin by way of enemies and barrel by way of rock, press that set off and begin drilling.
As a platforming mechanic, the drill provides a satisfying sense of analog fluidity to a style that may simply really feel like a boxy grid. Mastering the instrument oftentimes means pondering extra like a fish than a mole. For instance, by diving into rock and accelerating upward on the correct level in your arc, you obtain a propulsive increase upon remerging. It is important for leaping throughout massive gaps and avoiding obstacles. It’s also possible to preserve your breaching chain going by accumulating gadgets in entrance of you, just like rings in a Sonic the Hedgehog sport.
Pepper Grinder is at its finest (not less than on this demo) when it embraces these chaotic combos. Some enemies can solely be broken from sure angles, and we cherished dancing round them earlier than dashing into them like an offended narwhal. The sport feels downright elegant as you snake ahead in a steady loop. Ranges information you into these paths with their unconventional designs.
It’s not excellent, although. We perceive the sport should ramp up the problem, but it surely sometimes forces you to observe a single slender unbroken line and dumps you again to the start in the event you deviate from the rote sequence. This was particularly irritating with gates that change instructions when you drill by way of them. The drill is just too inherently unstable for this sort of exact motion. It’s a lot better fitted to flee-flowing locomotion and exploration.
The demo additionally gave us a glimpse of the world map, the place you choose ranges, and the merchandise store, the place you utilize collected treasures to purchase power-ups (like well being boosts) from the in-game gacha machine. We’ll have to attend till the ultimate launch to see if the sport has extra to supply past its sequence of brief levels.
Drill, Child, Drill
Video video games love themes of empowerment, and in Pepper Grinder, not even the earth’s crust can cease you from reducing a path towards platforming victory. Like Drill Dozer earlier than it, Pepper Grinder is Ecco the Dolphin meets Black and Decker. We’ll discover out simply how deeply Pepper Grinder burrows into our hearts when it launches on PC and Nintendo Change in 2024.
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