December 15, 2020
There are countless puzzle games throughout history that have featured square boards of coloured icons to delete. Be it jewels, candy or mean beans that you’re trying to eradicate, finding a way to match colours and get that high score has been a part of gaming since before I was born. Mobile gaming brought in a new wave of addictive and colourful apps, often sacrificing fun for monetisation. Last year Grindstone proved that mobile puzzle games could be engaging and unique, and now it’s available on Switch too.
JORJ is a big fella, who wants to make his way up Grindstone mountain. Unfortunately for him, all manner of monsters and jerks make this mountain their home, and the only way to journey to the top is by carving his way through their fleshy bodies. With the help of his trusty sword and an assortment of power-ups, you’ll need to help JORJ charge through coloured enemies to carve his way to the exit.
Each level takes place on a square grid, packed full of colourful enemies. JORJ can slice through baddies of the same colour in a straight line, turning them into piles of perfectly square meat. Chaining more than 10 together drops a Grindstone onto the field, which if you collect allows you to switch the colour of enemy you can kill. This then leads to some incredible screen-clearing chains, that help you reach the goal number of enemies dispatched to beat a level.
JORJ isn’t the only aggressive character on the mountain though, and the longer you take to finish a stage the more enemies will get angry. A worked up monster will attack all adjacent squares to it, so it’s best to end each attack chain on a tile away from potential damage. It won’t be long until you’ll be faced with screens full of aggressive little beasties, and you’ll need to make sure you finish a turn surrounded by previously sliced foes.
It can be worth sticking around once you’ve unlocked the door to the next level, with plenty of precious loot and Grindstones still up for grabs. Killing baddies and breaking items littered about a stage will sometimes drop crafting materials, and since they count as any colour they can even help you pull off some impressive combos.
Between stages, you can spend your hard-earned stone at the Inn to recover health and craft items and clothing. There are dozens of handy tools to create, each able to help out in a sticky situation. Shields block damage for a turn, bows can kill a single enemy that interrupts a combo, and single-use potions can heal you or even teleport you to any square you want. You’ll unlock more blueprints as you make your way up the mountain, which gives a really nice sense of progression.
You’ll need to be well equipped for the tougher foes that reside on the mountain. Each with their own unique attacks, this nasty lot can only be taken down by building up a combo stronger than their toughness. Despite the potential danger these jerks bring, beating one means you can switch colour. There’s simply nothing more satisfying than chaining together a room full of tougher enemies in one deadly path.
The action of Grindstone is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the delightful art style Capybara have used. All the weird and wonderful creatures that lurk on the mountain give off serious Cartoon Network vibes, and watching JORJ carve them into chunks is a feast for the eyes thanks to some exceptional character animations.
There’s no shortage of content in Grindstone, with hundreds of levels spanning multiple worlds all with their own obstacles. With additional secret worlds, a daily challenge and tons of optional objects, there’s almost as much content to devour here than in your favourite open-world game.
To unlock all the levels and equipment you desire you’ll need to do more than just slice your through to the exit gate. Each level has a chest that drops once the door is open, which you’ll need to find a key from a basic enemy to unlock. There’s also a Royal Slob that spawns in every level, granting a crown to anyone who can take them down using only their colour.
Grindstone has so many interwoven elements that you’ll unlock as you play through the game, but they are introduced at such a perfect pace that you never feel overwhelmed. The added complexity as you progress also prevents the fairly simple gameplay from ever feeling stale.
Grindstone is simply sublime. Its gameplay is easy to learn but hard to master, and the amount of content available is incredible. Clearing out full screens of jerks never ceases to be satisfying, and the constantly changing cast of baddies in your path means it never gets stale.
Easy to learn, hard to master
Tons of content
A huge array of enemies, weapons, and environments
Beautiful art style
A puzzling masterpiece, Grindstone is easy to learn but hard to master. With a ridiculous amount of content and varied gameplay, Grindstone is the total package.