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Grime Review

Slighty more difficult to beat than real world grime

It’s absolutely bonkers to sit down and think about just how damn influential 2011’s Dark Souls really is. It’s also bonkers to be reminded that 2011 was ten years ago, just like I’m doing right now. You’re welcome. It wouldn’t be terribly incorrect to say that Dark Souls’ wonderful worldbuilding, gothic visuals, and definitive difficulty curve have been endlessly dissected in these last ten years. From this immaculate scientific study came countless imitators, either adapting certain ‘Souls-like’ mechanics into fresh projects or simply copying the formula wholesale.

Grime, from Israeli studio Clover Bite, boastfully counts itself among the more tasteful design parrots. Alongside its obvious inspiration, Grime’s 2D side-scrolling also partakes in the triumphs and trappings of the ‘Metroidvania’ genre as well. A combination of these genres, despite said combo’s status as an indie game meme, isn’t altogether new or exciting by itself, however. These genres both thrive on atmosphere, which is where Grime utterly succeeds. Its brutal, surrealist depiction of its grotesque body horror world becomes more enthralling the longer you play.

The world of Grime is told in much the same way as Dark Souls is, which is a big reason for its excellent atmosphere. Events and figures are alluded to by the world’s inhabitants behind the noise of sniggering madness. Oddworld-like backgrounds are just the cherry on top of a visually sublime title. The story and environment leave a lot up to the player’s interpretation, blatantly bestowing only a select few truths throughout the game’s relatively long playtime. Now, when I say ‘relatively long’ I mean to convey two truths of my own: The first is that I’m absolutely rubbish at anything requiring quick agility and even quicker thinking. The second is that Grime requires quick agility and even quicker thinking.

Crab battle!

Grime is devilishly difficult, even out of combat. Let’s imagine that, one day, you decided to exercise your hands. To bring them up to snuff, you’ll need to put in some hard yards. But instead of paying good money to take them to a finger gym, you decided to give them a gaming workout. Grime’s more difficult platforming segments will absolutely fill that role. Enjoy your buff fingers. The amount of different actions required at such a lightning pace caused me to feel physical exhaustion in my hands, so it won’t long before I get folks ‘mirin my toned piano fingers. That’s not a joke, by the way, my hands did get really exhausted playing Grime. For kicks, I tried it with mouse and keyboard as well. Do not make my mistake, and trust in your controller.

But as even the slightest failure is punishable by an unpunishing death, victory is also sweetly rewarded

Combat is no slouch, either. You’re gifted with a parry attack that also instantly kills weak and/or damaged enemies and drains their life force. You can use this life force, called ‘Mass’, to upgrade your attributes. Health and Stamina are self-explanatory – Grime also lifts Dark Souls’ stamina bar – but it’s in the others that things start branching out. Bulking up Strength makes you better with the standard fare of a medieval fair. Dexterity builds demand spontaneous decisions, usually making you settle for weapons with quicker attacks. Resonance, however, is where you get to use all the wacky stuff. I didn’t even know what Resonance-scaling weapons did half the time, but they were a blast to figure out. The only downside here is that you can’t re-spec as you can in other Souls-likes. Once you spend the points, that’s where they’re staying. Squatter’s rights!

These guys look like they know all about squatter’s rights

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You’ll need these upgrades anyway, because you’ll find that Grime is a highly punishing game. A wrong dodge or a missed attack can leave you fighting for your life, especially fighting the two-hour-attempt bosses. Despite the welcome fact that you don’t lose your Mass when you die, Grime is in the business of punishing you for failure. It’s why the game can simply feel overwhelming at times. I like to think that I’m very patient, but Grime’s sheer difficulty in either boss fights or platforming gauntlets will definitely only appeal to the masochistic.

But as even the slightest failure is punishable by an unpunishing death, victory is also sweetly rewarded. Grime is adept at making good moments feel like amazing moments. For instance, defeating a boss pumps your body full of Ardor, a substance that dramatically increases your XP intake. Ardor also leaves your body with every tick of damage you take. It’s easy to get cocky after a big fight and strut along looking for easy XP, but your hubris will leave more than just your wings melted. It’s a prime example of how Grime will always egg you on to try just one more time even if you’re knackered. “Go on, take that risk…you’ve got nothing to lose.”

But I’ve completely forgotten about our other guest! Grime’s also invited the Metroidvania genre along, though it’s easily the game’s weakest aspect. (Don’t worry, it can’t hear us. I haven’t actually let them into the house yet.) The lack of penalty for death means that you can take more risks, but Grime rarely makes these feel worthwhile in the exploration department. While some secrets sprinkled through its map prove rewarding, most of the time you’ll walk away with some consumables that grow less valuable as the game progresses. Being able to retract one upgrade point in the final act of the game almost certainly isn’t worth the trouble, believe me.

What a handy chap

Furthermore, Grime’s map isn’t revealed through simple exploration; sections of the map are revealed by discovering mystical Beacons which are found through exploration. In a better Metroidvania game, a room would be added to the map upon entering or clearing it. Grime’s level design is thankfully simple and connected enough (when it’s not making your hands burn) to never leave you lost in its dark and punishing world, but when you find a Beacon when you’re done with an area already? It hurts, man.

What also hurts is Grime’s lack of overall gameplay identity. It borrows enough from highly influential games to put together a well-polished action-adventure Souls-like, but it’s just another well-polished action-adventure Souls-like. As killer as the atmosphere is, it’s not enough to justify throwing down with Grime unless a well-polished action-adventure Souls-like is just what your doctor ordered. It’s a very rewarding romp, but it’s a romp you’ve seen so many other times before. After all, Dark Souls is a decade old now.

Final Thoughts

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Grime is a Souls-like that wears its influences on its sleeve, for both good and bad – mostly good. Combat and platforming are top-notch and as hard as they can be, but there’s very little to set it apart in terms of mechanical complexity. That said, Grime’s atmosphere is out of this world and highly imaginative. A must-play for fans of either Souls-like or Metroidvania games, but those looking for more story-driven titles should beware.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Grime Review
Fortunately not married to Elon Musk
Grime packs a mean punch in both its platforming and combat, with a visual design that's worth writing home about. Its mediocre Metroidvania aspects are what keep it from being a must-play, however.
The Good
Firm but fair combat and platforming
Visually stunning
An absolute rush
The Bad
Exploration leaves much to be desired
You've played games like this before
8
Get Around It
  • Clover Bite / Team Malignant
  • Akupara Games
  • PC / Stadia
  • August 2, 2021

Grime Review
Fortunately not married to Elon Musk
Grime packs a mean punch in both its platforming and combat, with a visual design that’s worth writing home about. Its mediocre Metroidvania aspects are what keep it from being a must-play, however.
The Good
Firm but fair combat and platforming
Visually stunning
An absolute rush
The Bad
Exploration leaves much to be desired
You’ve played games like this before
8
Get Around It
Written By Arana Judith

Arana blames her stunted social skills and her general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between her ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. Her brain remains at large.

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