Genre: Indie, Puzzle
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Apple Arcade)
Developers | Publishers: Capybara Games | CAPY
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Teen
Price: EU €16,79 | USD $19.99 | UK £15.09
Release Date: December 15th, 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to CAPY
Developed by Capybara Games, Grindstone was originally released in September 2019 on Apple Arcade. Now that Grindstone’s Apple Arcade exclusive period has ended the game has been released on the Nintendo Switch too.
Adventures of Jorj
Grindstone is all about the adventures of a StoneGrinder named Jorj in this colour-matching game. Told in comic-strip style the intro wordlessly tells the game’s whole story. Jorj is longing to be reunited with his family again, but to do that, he has to earn enough cash. In this world, the currency of choice is the grindstones. So Jorj sets off to climb a massive mountain, slaying any Creeps, Slobs and Freaks that get between him and that family reunion. It’s a very long, winding and dangerous path, full of monstrous threats to slay.
Creeps on a 7×7 Grid
Creeps are laid out on a 7×7 grid and the aim is to trace a path (up, down, left, right or diagonally) through Creeps of the same colour to build up an attack combo. Each creep you slay will add to your score for the level, and once a certain threshold is met the gate will open and allow you to escape to the next level. Or you can continue the level you’re on as there are treasure chests that might yield a blueprint for craftable gear, or creep kings whose crowns are a valuable currency. However, the longer you stay in a level the more aggressive the creeps get, meaning the simplest foes can be deadly if you ignore them for too long.
Head to the Exit
Enraged creeps are a signal that if you end a turn sitting beside them, you’ll take a hit. By default, this means that the path to the exit becomes more dangerous the longer you stay in the level. So there’s a strong risk and reward system going on. Jorj only has three hearts. When he bites the dust, you’ll lose all of your items and progress in a level.
With every creep you kill in a chain, Jorj builds attack power, which is needed to clear breakable obstacles, trap-door-opening levers, tombstones, aggressive bosses, and much more. Link together more than 10 enemies and a grindstone drops on the board. This can then be used to switch colours in the following chain, lengthening it further.
The longer you play the game, the more elements reveal themselves, from gear that allows you to break the rules to your advantage to new enemy designs with attack patterns to pick your way around. When things get tough, you may need to go back and grind earlier levels for cash and materials.
Find the Chest
As for the goals themselves, there are usually a few on each level, you can be required to kill a certain number of creeps. Opening the door, unlocking the chest, or stealing the Slob’s crown. The first two are the only ones you need to worry about if you want to beat the stage and move on, but you will eventually need chests for crafting materials and crowns to unlock further stages down the road.
You can hold three items, some of which are “refuelled” whenever you enter a level and some of which need to be manually maintained in town using various forms of the currency earned in battle.
Better gear and Power Ups.
The level of the challenge feels just right in Grindstone, although it took me a while to appreciate it. As at first, the stages felt a bit small and cramped, and it could be frustrating trying to find a long enough path to defeat certain enemies or reach the point goal to finish the level. But after a few minutes, the board will almost always begin to fill up with grindstones and other special parts, which are also used as crafting material for better gear and power-ups. These items allow you to make longer chains more easily. Despite my bad luck at starting each level without many options, I nearly always managed to finish every goal without a lot of problems.
There is plenty of replay value in Grindstone too. Besides offering lots of levels, 200+, there’s also features like the Daily Grind. This lets you either challenge the online leaderboards for top spot, or do a Quick Grind.
Visuals and Controls
Grindstone’s unique artstyle stands out, from the quirky character designs to the cartoonish animations. Grindstone’s music is super catchy too and a little bit chill. The sound effects are very satisfying as well.
The game is controlled by touchscreen or joy-cons, I mostly played it using the touchscreen. I have only one complaint about game interface, it can be a little bit clunky when using a controller, but it is understandable, since the game was originally made for mobile and ported to the Switch.
Grindstone is a simple dungeon crawler bursting with charm and instant gratification. The short, engaging gameplay loop is good enough to never get boring, no matter how many times I went through it.
It’s effective, fun and addictive and has found the perfect portable home on the Nintendo Switch.
Final Verdict: I Like It A Lot