Pepper Grinder

Posted:  Mar 28, 2024
SDHQ BUILD SCORE: 
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SDHQ CONTENT SCORE: 
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Review

Pepper Grinder was provided by Devolver Digital for review. Thank you!

Back at Gamescom last year, I got to meet up with Devolver Digital and try out their games. I played about 3-4 of them, and although they were all great, Pepper Grinder stood out. The speedy platforming and quick thinking kept me hooked throughout my demo, and in the full games, this feeling has stuck, even if it has its pitfalls and can get a bit frustrating. But even still, it is a solid experience that feels right at home on the Steam Deck, and it’s an easy recommendation for a short and engaging time with a mechanic that I haven’t seen in many other games like this.

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The big draw for Pepper Grinder is the gameplay, and I think, for the most part, they succeed in creating an engaging experience, albeit a short one. This is a 2D platformer, so you will be going from one end of the level to the other, but you have a drill that allows you to dive into different materials and zoom through them, jumping in and out similarly to a dolphin in the ocean. You will utilize this to reach higher areas or secret passageways to collect more in-game currency or find one of the five hidden coins, which you can use to unlock hidden levels or customize the color of your character.

On the one hand, Pepper Grinder’s drilling mechanic is awesome. I was able to pull off a combination of moves to quickly power through levels, and I felt very accomplished. You will start to think more creatively as you go through levels in casual or time-attack mode, which puts pressure on you to get through as fast as you can. In times like these regular levels, the mechanic is way too much fun to use, and it feels innovative to use.

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On the other hand, there can be some frustration. When you are ready to come from the ground, you will explode outwards (also like a dolphin, but with a bit more force). Because of how fast you come out, it can be a bit hard to control and aim in the direction you need to go. While it isn’t as bad during levels, I found it obnoxiously difficult in boss battles. I cannot explain how many times I died during the final two bosses when they had only 1-2 hits left. The final boss especially has some ridiculous BS with it, like if you fall off the map and you lose a life point, you teleport back but can’t move for a second…but you can get hit during that second. I was livid. The levels do have some nuisances, like having to quickly press the right trigger twice so you can go from grappling hook to drilling or the occasional onslaught of enemies that can overwhelm, but in the normal levels, these were minimal.

Pepper Grinder's story isn’t all that special and just creates the setting for what you are doing, but the levels themselves are gorgeous. There are four diverse worlds, and each one can have distinct elements to utilize. The ice blocks, creating drillable terrain by sprinkling water onto the lava, and taking control of a weird bunny robot thing are all great examples. In one biome, you can even destroy buildings that are used to create pathways. I like how unique each area is, but I just wish there was a bit more to them.

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Each one has four levels and a secret level, and while all of them can do time trials, the only other thing we could get is customizable stickers, which can be used to put together scenes for photos. It’s a nice touch, but it doesn’t encourage me to keep coming back to play more. I would have loved a more rewarding progression system that allowed me to increase my health or become a custom-level builder, something along those lines.

Pepper Grinder - Steam Deck Performance

While the drilling can be a hit or miss, Pepper Grinder performs flawlessly on the Steam Deck. Without changing settings, we will get around 6W - 8W battery drain no matter what, usually hovering around 6.6W on average. This gives us around 8 - 9 hours of battery life on OLED at 90 FPS. You can also play at 60, which will bring the battery down to 5.5W - 7W and give a bit more battery, with the LCD getting around 6.5 - 7 hours. While I’m not surprised by this, it’s still wonderful to see.

Accessibility

There aren’t many settings to change, but it isn’t an overly complex game to begin with. You can change screen shake, which I highly recommend turning off, as well as volume sliders, rumble, and game speed.

There is no 16:10 resolution support, so you will have black bars, but there is full controller and cloud save support. There are no HDR settings.

Conclusion

With everything said and done, I would say I enjoyed my time with Pepper Grinder. It is a bit on the short side and can be frustrating at times, but it plays extremely well and the big draw, the drilling movement, works wonderfully and made me feel like I was pulling off incredible jumps to different faraway platforms. It also runs flawlessly on the Steam Deck, making it a Best on Deck game, and I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy it any other way.

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Pepper Grinder is a solid platformer with a great traversing mechanic, and it is wonderful on the Steam Deck.

Content

Gameplay: 
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Graphics: 
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Story: 
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Sound: 
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Fun Factor: 
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Build Score

Performance: 
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VISUALS: 
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Stability: 
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Controls: 
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Battery: 
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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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