Pepper Grinder (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 24.06.2024

Review for Pepper Grinder on Nintendo Switch

Side-scrolling platformers are a dime a dozen, so it takes something special to stand out in the crowded market these days. Developer Ahr Ech has come up with a game immediately appealing with its free-flowing digging mechanic, which sees the titular Pepper utilising a burrowing gadget in a quest to reclaim her stolen treasure in Pepper Grinder.

Take a stage-digging game like SteamWorld Dig and smash it together with classic 2D Sonic the Hedgehog, and you might be partway to having an idea of how Pepper Grinder plays. This is a side-scrolling platformer with a gameplay mechanic that allows players to satisfyingly burrow into the earth and quickly "swim" through the dirt, collecting buried treasure and popping back out of the ground to bash enemies and platform to victory.

Pepper can move and jump pretty normally on solid ground, but certain noticeable spots of the floor can be dug into with the ZR button. At this point, Pepper enters an automatic state of movement, continually pushing forward with her drill until she is directed out of the dirt and back onto flat land. Tilting the stick will steer her in the intended direction in an attempt to collect treasure that is used to purchase simple costume alterations, or smack into unsuspecting enemies on the surface.

Screenshot for Pepper Grinder on Nintendo Switch

As progress is made within each stage, the momentum-based platforming segments become harder, where grinding through the ground and popping out with a boost of acceleration is required in order to reach tricky platforms. While the actual burrowing mechanic feels smooth and fulfilling, it does take some getting used to with the burst of speed Pepper gains during this motion. There is a tendency to lose control of her direction, particularly during moments that require quick reflexes and precision platforming to perfectly land in the next floating piece of dirt or to latch onto a grapple point. Thankfully, the inevitable failures are circumvented by generous checkpoints that mean it doesn't take long to get back to the point that you previously died at.

The core gameplay has a strong 2D Sonic vibe, where the idea with Pepper Grinder is that it requires learning the stages, practicing its many segments of varying difficulty and perfecting them by keeping the momentum going, until the whole piece can be steamrolled together seamlessly without dying for a very rewarding experience. With this in mind, the game is ideal for speedrunning, echoed by the developers including an in-game button option to view the running playtime.

Screenshot for Pepper Grinder on Nintendo Switch

To make things a tad easier, too, though - because the lack of major control with the grinding function is legit - there is also an option to slow the game speed down to help those struggling to grasp the accurate platforming required. It is a welcome addition that alleviates some of the issues that occur since - for as much as digging and diving flows neatly - it is incredibly easy to screw up in the pacier segments, and slowing things down can greatly calm the mind and produce the necessary reflexes.

Pepper Grinder can be a slightly frustrating time thanks to annoying enemies and bosses. Combat is not this game's forte, and the final boss may just be one step too far for some people. Temporary health boosts can be picked up prior to going into battle, but permanent ones may have been a friendlier option, too.

Screenshot for Pepper Grinder on Nintendo Switch

Later levels include brief alterations to Pepper's drill and vehicles that offer a reprieve from what can become a slightly repetitive game. Some of these abilities are hit and miss, where the rocket and machinegun contraptions are incorporated into blasting paths open or firing on waves of enemies, respectively, but the snowmobile and mecha unit seem a little tacked on in an attempt to freshen the adventure up, feeling much more passive and boring as a result.

World and stage variety is a bit lacking even as soon as the second area, but the game is short enough that things don't become overly repetitive if not trying to complete the game all in one go - it can be the case that doing a handful of levels here and there will prevent Pepper Grinder from overstaying its welcome faster than normal. Some top tier music helps keep stages engaging, and there are plenty of branches leading to hidden treasure and extra levels to unlock that provide greater incentive to master the mechanics and explore and replay stages even further.

Screenshot for Pepper Grinder on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Pepper Grinder is a short little platformer that delivers a satisfying gameplay concept, but it can take time to grasp the full mechanics due to the fast speed and slight unpredictability of where Pepper will move during and after the drilling process. The slower speed option can help alleviate the issues, but those that take the time to master it will be rewarded with a fast-paced adventure with plenty of secrets to discover. Speedrunners will get a lot of purchase out of this one, but it isn't without its problems when dealing with frustrating combat and bosses. Thankfully, the short length balances things out, ensuring Pepper Grinder ends before it gets too tedious.

Developer

Ahr Ech

Publisher

Devolver Digital

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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