I’m a big fan of indie games, especially the puzzle/platformer types. You tend to find original mechanics and interesting gameplay elements that you wouldn’t find in a ‘play-it-safe’, triple A title. But amongst the collection of inspiring games, there is always one or two that are about as much fun as getting shot.
Grimind is a horror puzzle platformer, an interesting genre I know. You play as a weird little character, some sort of hedgehog-come-mexican bean that has no idea where it is or how to escape its nightmare. As you progress through the almost pitch black environment, lit only with the odd glowing orb, you find yourself being hunted by a blood thirsty species that dwell within the darkness, and will eat you given any chance.
Many of the puzzles require you to avoid the darkness by sticking to lit areas or by blocking the creatures’ path temporarily whilst searching for an exit. Sometimes you’ll need to think fast and act quickly in order to escape the darkened area before being eaten alive. The entire game and its puzzles are physics based, which involves a lot of carrying and throwing of objects usually onto weighted switches. You often find your character will snag on little rough areas of then environment; most annoying when in mid-air. The rough terrain can cause problems when running and jumping. If you run over a small unnoticed ledge, you will be unable to jump until you reach the floor again which is particularly annoying when running down hill and attempting to jump a gap.
Despite its interesting concept, Grimind is nothing more than tedious. The fact that there is a death count at the main menu shows that you are expected to die many times, but it is difficult for all of the wrong reasons. The controls are poorly implemented. Left mouse click will grab an object or climbable vine, and ‘W’ will jump, therefore climbing across several vines requires you to press both W and left click in such a way that doesn’t feel natural. It’s bearable when you have all of the time in the world; however, when you have a deadly boulder rolling your way, it becomes frustrating as you die repeatedly. Puzzles are often boring and regularly involve moving objects repeatedly. It’s obvious what you need to do, but it just takes twenty minutes to actually do it.
Checkpoints are generally quite common, but can be scarce in places where repeating menial tasks really makes you feel like quitting. Finding where to go is a large puzzle in itself as you often come across dead ends, and must then backtrack only to jump at every wall hoping to find a secret passage or platform that you had previously missed, which is very easy to do as the black platforms are hidden by the (also black) foliage.
Given that you are told on start-up that the game is best played in an unlit room with headphones plugged in, it isn’t very scary (and I’m a wimp). Not knowing what lurks in the darkness during the early stages of the game was a little creepy, but once the poorly designed monsters showed themselves, the entire game became a bad joke. I’m all for retro inspired games and interesting art styles, but when the second most common character looks like it was painted in Microsoft Paint by a programmer, I can’t help but feel that the game isn’t worth it’s price tag. Even the main character is poorly designed with its non-high resolution graphics and single animation used for running, jumping and even swimming. I’m sure the only reason the environment is so dark is that the artists couldn’t be bothered to create nice looking art work.
The audio is no better. Grabbing objects and jumping make a clicking sound that doesn’t fit with the eerie ambience, nor does it fit with the echoing splash when jumping into water that sounds like someone plunging their face into a toilet. A few of the sound effects – such as the deep distant groaning and squelching sound of creatures eating something fleshy – deserve a little credit, but again, these sound effects don’t really fit with other elements of the game.
When a game starts to feel like more of a chore than a source of entertainment, it’s time to stop playing. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine players getting any further than half way before feeling this way about Grimind. The graphics are mismatching and generally bad. The abstract storyline doesn’t intrigue like a mystery should, and instead just confuses you further. Grimind is a big disappointment and does not get a recommendation from me. It’s an ugly, uncomfortable game that fails in so many areas a platformer shouldn’t.