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Pepper Grinder (PC review)

Gamers looking for a sedate game that they can just tootle about should steer clear of Pepper Grinder: It is a game that definitely couldn’t be described as sedate..

Pepper Grinder is a non-stop (previewed here), frenetic 2D platformer/puzzler/explorer where you control Pepper, a young girl who washes up on a sandy beach after a shipwreck, finding her grinder (powerful drilling device) is missing and so is her treasure!

Pepper must reclaim the precious tool then explore the world, searching for her missing treasure and using the grinder tool to delve deeper into the world, defeating goblin-like creatures and other foes along the way. It’s also Steam Deck ready, if you like playing your PC games on Valve’s handheld console.

Non stop combat and puzzles

The world of Pepper Grinder is brightly coloured yet confusing at times, with Pepper using the drill to burrow through soft earth, bodies of water and across seemingly impossible chasms littered with spiky thorns and other obstacles. The controls are simple enough: Right trigger on a controller spins up the drill, A for jump, left stick for movement.

The game throws in a mix of platforming, combat and puzzles to keep things interesting, and Pepper Grinder’s mechanics take a little getting used to, especially the “jump” mechanic used to reach higher places. Well, it’s not really a jump as such.

To reach higher points, Pepper has to build momentum by drilling through soft earth, the drill propelling her at speed into the air as she exits the ground. It takes a few instances to get to grips with but once you figure it out, it allows for some pretty fluid movement and you’ll need to master it to traverse vertically around the game world. It’s great fun looping around and around through the dirt like your on some kind of merry go around before exploding from the ground, heading skyward.

Soon enough you’ll be blasting all over the place, negotiating the tiny pirate through crystal clear waters, across rocky outcrops and dodging spiky thorns. Jewels embedded in the landscape can be used to upgrade Pepper’s abilities and arsenal and taking risks exploring secret paths lets you collect special coins.

Risk vs. Reward, Delight vs. Frustration.

For me, Pepper Grinder frustrated and delighted in equal measure but I think much of that was on me and my old man fingers which don’t deal with fast-twitch games as well as they used to: Delighted thanks to the bright world and interesting locations, frustrated thanks to the often wayward direction the grinder would send Pepper as she held on with as much strength as she could muster as it dragged her around the world with wild abandon.

Ultimately, Pepper Grinder is a another wee gem from Devolver Digital that is full of frantic action and brightly coloured enviornments and is perfect for short-burst gameplay.