Pepper Grinder review for PC, Nintendo Switch

Platform: Steam
Also On: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Ahr Ech
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Pepper Grinder is one of the most fun action platformers I’ve played in recent memory.  I first got my hands on the game at PAX West 2023 where its vibrant colors pulled me in — but after experiencing the demo, I was captivated.  The unique drilling mechanics hooked me and I knew I wanted more.

You play as the titular Pepper, a very colorful seafaring person who we meet washed ashore and stranded as her loot is plundered by the evil Mint and her minions known as Narlings. You chase after Mint and get knocked down a canyon and there you discover your drill Grinder and that’s where the real fun of the game begins. With your “Grinder” drilling device, you  burrow through different dirt paths, beat up enemies, and activate different devices used to progress through the game. Each path is extremely different and never feels repetitive. It was amazing seeing how many uses the team found for each game mechanic. In these patches of dirt, you collect gems and each layout has five gold coins for you to collect that can be used for cosmetics unlocks later on in the game.

I am painting a picture that Pepper Grinder is just a nice, easy game where you dig around and loot — that is where the game surprises.  Behind its vibrant visuals lies a sometimes frustrating experience with well-designed levels and boss battles that at times can be frustrating, but oh-so rewarding.  Some platforming challenges require you to make specifically timed boosted jumps as well as grappling across certain obstacles can hamper your progress. You progress through a treasure map that contains 4 stages, a specialty store (where you can buy health boosters, stickers collectibles, and cosmetics), a bonus stage, and some of the most difficult boss battles I’ve encountered in a platformer. The bosses have Souls-like health bars and it feels like an endurance test. I had a ton of trial and error and ran into a bugged-out final boss. I won’t go into spoilers but I did lose audio during it and the audio came back once I completed it.

The game looks fantastic. The bosses are unique and interesting, and in particular I love the final two stages of this game which are beautifully designed with the final boss fantastically animated. The visuals of Pepper Grinder are only matched by the amazing soundtrack accompanying it, and the minute you boot up this game you are met with a hair-raising opening theme. I found myself pausing the game in different sections of the game to just vibe out to listen to the track.

Pepper Grinder, while at times being difficult, is also incredibly short.  It took me about 4.5 hours to complete only because I went back and tried to complete some time trial challenges you unlock once you beat a level. There is plenty to do once you beat the game and I look forward to channeling my inner speedrunner and completing some more of those time trials. I also want to go back and collect those gold coins.

Pepper Grinder is an innovative platformer that should be on your backlog of games to play and is the perfect snack-sized experience to hold you over until your next big title.  The fluid gameplay, stunning pixel art visuals and slapping soundtrack will make you hungry for more.

Note: Devolver Digital provided us with a Pepper Grinder code for review purposes.

Score: 9

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