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Pepper Grinder Review

Pepper Grinder Review

As soon as I downloaded Pepper Grinder, developed by Ahr Ech and published by Devolver Digital, I was excited to see that there was an instruction manual made for it. The manual looks just like the ones you would get with a Super Nintendo game; it even has a seal of quality on the inside cover. I appreciate when companies go out of their way to include special touches like this. I haven’t even played the game, and it has already won me over! Will Pepper Grinder match my heightened expectations?

PepperGrinder shipwreck

In this world, the mainland nations are at war, and the islands and waterways surrounding these countries are teeming with pirates and buccaneers hunting for treasure. Not all these characters want to hurt people; however, our heroine, Pepper, just wants all the treasure she can find. Her quest took her to the dangerous high seas, and her efforts netted her a small fortune until a nasty storm ripped her ship apart, leaving her on a strange island. The worst part is that the narwhal-like creatures that live there (called the Narlings), are taking her spoils. Pepper won't stand for this; she needs to stop them along with the shadowy figure that leads them using her power tool named Grinder.

PepperGrinder mad

There are four different themed areas to traverse, with four or five stages to complete before you face off against a boss. Some levels are locked as you progress through the area; they can be unlocked by purchasing a Gold Key at the Curiosity Shop by spending skull coins. Each level you play through has five skull coins hidden to find. Their location isn’t always super obvious, so it will take some exploring to find them all.

PepperGrinder lv1map

Pepper has a special weapon that she uses to traverse the levels: her drill. On the top of the screen, besides Pepper’s portrait, you will see a meter that shows the grinder’s RPM — revs per minute— the more you drill, the more it will fill to make it stronger. You use your drill to dig through the dirt and collect the gems that you find. To progress through the level, you will dig into the ground, and by timing your drilling with the A button, you will be able to shoot out of the ground, getting extra height to reach a platform that you couldn’t reach with a regular jump, or to get into another patch of sand to dig in. Digging isn’t the only thing your drill can do: it works well as a weapon to take down the huge variety of enemies that you will encounter.

PepperGrinder grounddig

The motion of jumping out of one sandpit into another feels like a dolphin jumping out of the water, kind of like Ecco the Dolphin on the Sega Genesis. There’s something incredibly satisfying about leaping through the air and collecting gems to get to the next spot to dig! Once you progress, you will unlock a grapple ability that has you hooking onto a target and swinging all the way around, collecting gems, and trying to move through the stage. Having good timing will be important here, as it is very easy to fly in the wrong direction, falling into a hole, smashing into enemies, or crashing into spiky thorns. Pepper only has four hit points, so it doesn’t take much to die.

PepperGrinder grapple

Pepper Grinder is pretty forgiving, so if you do die, you will start from the last lantern checkpoint you passed. These are easy to spot, as they will light up when you walk past them. There are a lot of sections that I had to play through multiple times as I would make a mistake and die or just get destroyed by the enemies in the level. The nice thing is that once you play that section a few times, you develop muscle memory and become familiar with the hazards that stand in your way.

PepperGrinder gunattack

When you get through all the levels, a boss battle is awaiting you. The first one waiting for you is a large beetle with a Narling rider. I found this boss battle ridiculously hard, as it’s not very clear what you have to do. Once the rider is knocked off, you can hit him a couple of times before he hops back on the beetle, but getting him off this mount is pretty tricky. It took me a lot of tries to figure out the exact timing, especially since his gun is now upgraded after the first time he falls off so that his purple blasts can go through the sand to hit you, whereas before, they were stopped as soon as they hit the dirt. The key is to use the bottom face button (A on an Xbox controller) along with the drill button to do a more powerful attack so you can hit the beetle down and attack the rider. There was a lot of swearing involved here, but once I was successful, there was a great sense of accomplishment, making it feel worth all the frustration.

PepperGrinder area2map

Pepper Grinder has a great hand-drawn look on the area maps, combined with cool-looking pixel art in the levels; this is paired with a jazz soundtrack full of horns and snare drums. I especially loved the catchy, upbeat boss battle music. I never got tired of hearing the jazzy tunes along with the never-ending sound of my grinder!

PepperGrinder piratecoin

The controls for this 2D action platformer were simple to learn and worked well on the levels. I used a controller or my Steam Deck for my playthrough, but there is the option to use the keyboard if you are playing on the PC. To use the grinder, hold down the right trigger and jump is your bottom face button. Once you can grapple, you will need to grab the mount and use the left face button. The hardest thing to master is the timing required to do large jumps or when you are dismounting while grappling.

PepperGrinder shop

I’m having a fun time playing Pepper Grinder; it feels just like a challenging game I would have played on the Super Nintendo. Being able to buy gacha capsules at the Curiosity Shop to collect extra health and stickers was a cool addition, and spending gems on new hair colour or capes for Pepper was fun to customise her look how I wanted. At times, Pepper Grinder can be challenging, but it was a unique experience that was rewarding to play. Plus, when are you going to play a game where you will tunnel through chunks of meat to get through the stage? It sounds weird, but it worked great to avoid the Narling enemies carrying butcher knives trying to attack me!

PepperGrinder grindmeat

8.50/10 8½

Pepper Grinder (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Pepper Grinder is a unique and challenging title that has you drilling through everything to recover your stolen treasure. With great visuals and jazzy music, this is a title to check out!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alana Dunitz

Alana Dunitz

Staff Writer

Lover of all games, old and new!

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