Pepper Grinder In-game Screenshot
In-game Screenshot

Pepper Grinder Review (PC): A Drilling Adventure Brimming with Potential

Action 2D platformers are a dime-a-dozen, and having your title stand out amongst the rest would require an incredibly unique gameplay innovation or just a drill. Fortunately, Pepper Grinder, the latest game published by Devolver Digital and developed by Ahr Ech, has both, making it an exhilarating, enjoyable game, with its only major flaws being tied to its length.

Pepper Grinder is a high-octane pirate adventure featuring the main protagonist, Pepper, and her resilient drilling companion, Grinder. After a shipwreck leaves her treasure in the clutches of the mischievous Narlings, Pepper falls into a chasm while hot on their tails. Luckily, this descent is how she obtains her trusty, powerful sidearm and embarks on a journey to reclaim her fortune.

Unfortunately, Pepper Grinder’s narrative takes a backseat to the gameplay. The game provides stunning worlds that bring different elemental gameplay designs and concepts, but you transition from world to world without any connection to your previous achievements. However, it seems as if sacrificing the story to allow the gameplay to truly shine was a key design feature. Fortunately, it absolutely pays off.

“The fun all ends far too quickly.”

Snow Mobile in Pepper Grinder
In-game Screenshot

With the trusty Grinder by your side, players must navigate diverse terrain, control machinery, and defeat enemies hindering Pepper’s quest for her stolen treasure. The main mechanic in Pepper Grinder is to use your Grinder, or drill, as a weapon and dig through different terrain to navigate through the level, collecting treasures and Skull Coins along the way. Luckily, the diversity with the Grinder is vast, allowing you to connect to different contraptions in the game. From adding a gun attachment and firing devastating bullets at enemies to connecting to a snowmobile to speed across ice, Pepper Grinder keeps you engaged and glued to the screen right until the very end.

When we first played the demo, we played three unique levels, each distinctly different from the others, a quality that carries over into the full game. Pepper Grinder boasts four stunning biomes to explore, each offering a fresh experience and introducing new gadgets to enjoy. Controlling the grinder to carve through terrain is intuitive, yet it delivers an exhilarating level of welcomed chaos and speed. This fluidity of movement elevates the gameplay to exhilarating heights, especially during momentum-driven sequences and intense boss battles. The charming pixel art design and vibrant environments provide much-needed variance to remove any monotonous gameplay, and the dynamic soundtrack and sound design add to the unprecedented mayhem, improving the overall experience. However, the fun all ends far too quickly.

“Once you start Pepper Grinder, it will be hard to put down.”

Pepper Grinder Stage 4-4 Coin 1
In-game Screenshot

Pepper Grinder can be completed in around 2 hours. This obviously depends on your skill level and platforming ability. While this short duration isn’t inherently problematic, it does leave a lot to be desired, especially if you are craving increased depth and exploration. The inclusion of time trials and Skull Coin collectibles adds replayability, but additional content and mechanics could further enrich the gameplay experience and extend its longevity.

In each of the four worlds, there is a shop marker on the map, which allows you to spend the Skull Coins and gems you’ve collected throughout levels. However, besides purchasing the gold key to unlock an additional level, the shop items aren’t substantial and have little effect on the overall game. I had no inclination or desire to purchase any of the shop offerings of increased temporary health, sticker packs to design a page, and cosmetic changes for your character. This just left me with plenty of money, with little to no reason to spend it.

For US$14.99 / AU$21.49, Pepper Grinder is absolutely worth the price despite the length of the game. While there is some replayability for completionists, the platforming sections and the power and diversity of the simple Grinder make the game incredibly enjoyable; once you start, it will be hard to put down.

Disclosure: Game Crater was provided the game for this review.

Pepper Grinder In-game Screenshot
Pepper Grinder Review
Pepper Grinder is a enjoyable adventure, brimming with excitement, challenges, and hidden treasures. Its innovative drilling mechanic, vibrant presentation, and engaging gameplay make for an extraordinary journey, albeit one that leaves players yearning for it to last longer. However, despite its minor flaws, Pepper Grinder stands as a thrilling escapade and great indie title.
Engaging gameplay
Vibrant level design
Replayability elements
Short duration
Limited shop items