GRIME review

Grime is a new Metroidvania souls-like that combines platforming, action, and plenty of secrets. Developed by a small team, this game shows a load of potential and if you like games like Hollow Knight and Dead Cells, then this could be something worth checking out.

In terms of story, it’s a little thin on the ground, however, you start out the game essentially being born into the dark, dank world filled with rock people. Two huge super-beings appear to be caught in a loved-up embrace, they go to kiss and somehow you are born into the world. You are human-like, with elements of rock but you have a black hole for a head. Immediately you notice you are slightly different from the other rock creatures that inhabit this world, they are misshapen, ugly and one, in particular, appears to worship you as a perfected form. You are taken through the ropes of running, jumping, and using your starter weapon then it’s off you go. Your objective is to battle your way through a series of caves, deserts, and different environments to ascend and find your creators.

Grime’s environment and visual style immediately catch the eye. Initially, you’ll start underground in a series of caves, where the inhabitants are disfigured, harsh, and hidden from the light. There are eyes watching in the walls and the music is atmospheric. Limbs extrude from pots, trying to grab and hurt you. Rock beings are slumped on the floor, lunging forward with their attacks in a desperate last attempt to stop you. It’s all very unsettling and quite strange, but a great setting for a game.

As you make your way through the caves of the early levels you’ll meet a character called Yin. He’s a small, disfigured rock form being who lives in the caves and he looks up to you as a ‘perfect being’. The rock beings who live underground appear to be suppressed in some way by those above, and as you find your path to the levels above Yin and his friends follow you. They add an extra dimension to the story which is very welcome.

The environments change fairly regularly and there’s a sense of scale and beauty to Grime. The map is vast with winding tunnels, and plenty of secret doors to find. The map reminded me of Hollow Knight. You’ll start off in an area in the dark, but you’ll find a purple glowing beacon to unveil the area you are in, and all levels are interconnected. There are checkpoints to find, which is useful because the game is fairly challenging and you’ll likely die plenty. At these checkpoints, you can level up various attributes to make you stronger as you go.

Grime is a classic Metroidvania in terms of gameplay where you’ll level up, find new items, and be able to get to new areas as you progress. In terms of movement, it’s not quite a free-flowing as something like Ori, however, you do have a dodge mechanic which is useful in battle, and then later in the game a double jump. The platforming and movement in the game do feel a little limited at times, but ultimately it’s very satisfying. The verticality of the levels stands out as a feature and you’ll be running, jumping, trying to work your way through crumbling platforms, and navigating through high-speed moving lifts that will crush you if there’s a wrong turn.

Combat in Grime takes on the Souls-like form. Enemies are challenging, and you have a variety of weapons to take them down. Weapons include swords, clubs, daggers in all different shapes and forms. As well as your weapons there’s a decent parry mechanic, which utilizes the black hole on your head. When an enemy attacks you have to time the button press just right, and the black hole will absorb the incoming attack and rebel against the enemy with a high damage attack. Each weapon has three stats: Strength, Dexterity, and Resonance (or Magic). As well as attacks you have a healing mechanic, you’ll build up a yellow/orange meter, and then you can refill your health periodically.

In addition to these abilities, you can also absorb enemies and you’ll gain new abilities which can be unlocked through Hunt points. Each absorbable enemy has an ability associated to them, for example getting health back, increasing stamina, helping you find secrets and so on. These additional abilities really open things up and give you plenty of freedom to mix and match combat and exploration styles in Grime.

There are checkpoints throughout called Surrogates, which act in a similar way to Dark Souls bonfires. As you are making your way through levels you’ll collect XP and this can be used at Surrogate points to level up. In a slight difference to other Souls games, you don’t lose XP when you die, everything you collect is permanent which makes things a little easier as you progress. The currency you do lose when you die is called Ardor, which you’ll collect as you progress by killing enemies without taking damage.

There’s a limit on your Ardor, and that’s set to 100. If you die you’ll lose it but you can get some of it back if you find the last place you died and collect them from your ghost. As you progress through Grime things are going to get tough, so this is a nice mechanic which doesn’t punish you too much. This is a combination of a metroidvania and Souls-like, and there’s a blend of mechanics from each genre rather than too many Souls. It’s tough, but ultimately pretty well balanced which feels rewarding throughout. Some bosses are pretty tough when you first meet them, but after a few tries and learning their mechanics it shouldn’t take too long to get past these tougher foes.

The boss fights should also be noted. They tend to be massive, grotesque beings with a variety of attacks and you’ll be dodging and carefull timing your attacks to make sure you aren’t crushed in a single blow. These set pieces are pretty much the pinnacle of gameplay in Grime and offer up a major challenge. Similar to Souls bosses you’ll be learning their moves et and timing, plus selecting the right weapon to go into the battle can really change the outcome. Parrying comes into the forefront in the boss fights as you’ll need everything in your arsenal to chip away slowly at their massive health bars.

Grime has a lot going for it. The exploration and platforming are fun and engaging. There are so many secrets to find, and you are trained early on in the game to check hidden walls and secret passages. Combat is tough, but doable and the environment are varied and very well done. The game is almost a painting come alive. I understand the team working on the game is very small, and I think they can all be hugely proud of what they have achieved.

Developer: Clover Bite, Spooky Doorway
Publisher: Akupara Games
Platforms: PC via Steam, Mac, Stadia
Release date: 2nd August 2021