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April 2024

Pepper Grinder

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Ahr Ech
Release Date: 2024

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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Switch/PC Preview - 'Pepper Grinder'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Feb. 2, 2024 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

Pepper Grinder is an action-packed drill-bit digventure evoking classic platformers with a bore-ing twist.

It seemed likely that Pepper Grinder would be one of those games that had a good idea and built the experience around it. Players take on the role of Pepper, and from the short opening cinematic, it seems that they have survived a shipwreck. As they awaken, their stuff is stolen, and Pepper chases after them. Very early on, Pepper comes across Grinder, a giant drill head mounted on what appears to be a giant chainsaw engine, which is both Pepper's weapon and the key means of traversing the world.

It is simplest to call Pepper Grinder a platformer, but you spend very little time jumping around. With Grinder, you can swim through certain types of terrain like a dolphin can swim through the water. Stuff like solid rock can block you — if only to give some structure to the levels — but each level is filled with sand that can be drilled through. While drilling, you can press the jump button to get a burst of speed; it can be useful to time it well as you breach out of some sand to get a boost that flings you further up or over an obstacle. Some enemies can be killed when the drill touches them, while others must be drilled into.

There's a fair amount of skill that's needed, and while using the drill is immediately intuitive, you're also affected by physics when you burst from the sand and arc over to the intended target. You also cannot stop moving while drilling, and although it's easy to change direction while tunneling, you can't do it on a dime. It means you must have some sort of plan about where you are digging, but thankfully, the material you dig through "respawns" almost immediately, so you can always loop around and try again if you make a mistake.

The preview build had a handful of levels, but it was a good taste of what the title might have to offer upon release. Narwhals seem to be a common foe, some of which can also drill into the ground like Pepper or can hover in the air and fire guns at pre-set spots. Puzzles abound, with Pepper having to use Grinder's power to raise elevating platforms, or digging and bursting into pivoting gates that then move all gates of the same color. Each level also has five special coins that can be found and collected; some are cleverly hidden behind crumbling solid rock walls or within the sand.

The preview build only featured a handful of levels, so it's difficult to say what else Pepper Grinder has in store. I was impressed with both how simple it is to drill around and how many creative ways the drill is incorporated into the gameplay. It makes movement feel skillful and fluid, and the game frequently feels like it's been built around the drill mechanic. In my limited time with Pepper Grinder, I can say that there really isn't anything else like it out there.

Previewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia RTX 4070 Ti, Xbox One Controller

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