I consider myself fairly well versed in indie games. I like to keep on the up-and-up about them and try to check out the one’s that look interesting. Silhouette-esque art style? Check. Difficult platforming? Check. Weird main character with the promise of a unique gameplay experience? Sure sounds like an indie game to me. Grimind caught my eye with its art style, but that must’ve been at quite a distance now that I think about it. Any game that calls itself a horror puzzle platformer has my attention too but looking back on it, that title is perhaps not deserved. In fact, many of Grimind’s facets are interesting at first but quickly become tedious, obnoxious, and unimpressive up close.
I’m not sure what the main character of Grimind is; some say it’s a lizard while others liken it to a hedgehog. You play as this thing and you don’t know where you are, how to escape, or how you’ll live. To give you an idea of the type of platformer Grimind is, there’s a death counter on the main menu. That often denotes a difficult game and while some may seem Grimind as difficult I just found it frustrating.
Most of the game takes place in pitch-black darkness. It’s hard to tell what’s a platform and what will cause instant death so you jump and pray and jump and pray. Darkness, when used in a fashion like Limbo can be artistic and creepy. Grimind’s use of darkness is more frustrating in its execution as it prevents the player from seeing what needs to be done in order to proceed. This is made even more frustrating as the game’s checkpoint system seems to be sporadic and often set me back too far for comfort. Several times I’d die and reset only to realize I didn’t know what I had done right in order to get past the part I just respawned at.
Getting caught on the environment is never a good thing. Grimind, I think, tries to use this as a way to make the game difficult but to me it makes it feel broken. When I think of a character getting caught on the environment I think of a buggy or broken game. Marketing that as a feature of the game is a terrible idea, as if it is mean to cover sloppy development. The “puzzles” in the game are extremely simple. Earlier when I said I didn’t know what to do to move on I meant in terms of where to jump and where not to land. Puzzles, however, often involve moving things around, two or three times, and moving forward after doing so. It’s a game that reminded me of the atrocious War of the Worlds on the Xbox 360 as I knew what I had to do but it took me far too long to do it as I died over and over and, yes, over again.
Grimind recommends playing the game in the dark with headphones but I’m not sure that’s needed. No point of the game was so scary as to be amplified by darkness and the audio is so atrocious that headphones will only make it worse. The brief parts of the game that involved light, the parts where you can actually see the game world, show players that the art is not particularly nice to look at anyway. Perhaps the darkness hides the art? And the sound, which the game says is best with headphones, is often odd and unfitting to the game world. The world feels like a primal environment filled with danger and yet when you grab a box or item there’s a click sound that feels so unnatural it’s more startling than anything else in the game.
I didn’t enjoy Grimind and that’s a shame. There was a promising idea here but nothing in the game came together to make for an interesting experience. Instead, I was left frustrated and underwhelmed as I tediously hopped from platform to platform, wondering if I’d live to see the next checkpoint or die trying, and shaking my head as the latter became true.