Pepper Grinder’s drill brings a sense of momentum to the usual platformer formula

Whenever Devolver Digital is publishing something, I can’t help but pay closer attention than I might otherwise. Rarely do they pick up a game that doesn’t have something interesting going on. In Pepper Grinder’s case, that’s blending traditional platforming with a drill that catapults you through the air.

In the game, you play as the titular Pepper as she sets off to reclaim the treasure the pesky Narlings stole. To do so, she takes her Grinder – the aforementioned drill – along for the ride that looks to be the reason Pepper Grinder might stand out from the crowd.

Using it, she can burrow through specific terrain, building up speed along the way. Then, after she pops back above ground, the momentum created will help fling her through the air toward the next platform. It’ll likely start simple enough before progressing to the multipart sections you can see in the trailer, where the aim is to chain together several leaps to reach new areas. 

Drilling into the mechanics

It can also be used to torpedo underwater or skim over the surface like a stone. Developer Ahr Ech promises the mechanics are fluid, with you having a great deal of control over each movement. That potentially means we can pull off some impressive-looking stunts that could nail that feeling of exhilaration you get from platforming’s trickiest segments.

Based entirely on the gameplay footage I’ve seen, it gives me flashbacks to Rayman Origins, where, if your timing was impeccable, you could complete certain sections in one fell swoop. Not only did this look fantastic, it gave me immense satisfaction to know that I’d nailed the game’s mechanics – for that part, at least. 

Sensibly, though, it looks like Ahr Ech hasn’t put all their drill pieces in one toolbox. They’re smart enough to know that variety is often the key to making a great platformer. So, even though the drill will likely play a pivotal role throughout, don’t expect every level to be the same set-up. 

There appear to be stages where you’re jumping from vehicle to vehicle, with the road presumably becoming a hazard. So that’s one other type, while another sees you channeling your platforming skills to take down bosses, which could introduce new and interesting ways to use the drill-based movement. 

Pepper Grinder’s multipurpose tool

The drill isn’t only used for breaking through ground to fling yourself to new heights, though. It also comes in handy for operating machines you find scattered through each level, alongside being a way to dispatch your enemies.

It will also become more adept at these tasks as you progress. You can find numerous drill bits that allow you to solve puzzles and, presumably, grind enemies to dust in new ways or just more effectively. Either is great.

Indie developers are making the best platformers

Nothing against Mario, but I think that the indie scene has been home to some of the best platformers in the last fifteen years. Super Meat Boy, Limbo, and Celeste immediately spring to mind, with each bringing something a little different to the genre. 

Whether or not Pepper Grinder will earn a spot among indie platformer royalty remains to be seen. But it’s certainly got the potential on paper. A fluid system based on generating momentum could lead to some thrilling and memorable moments. Let’s hope it does.

Pepper Grinder will release on Steam and Nintendo Switch on March 28th. 

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This Article was written by: Stephen Gregson-Wood