Grindstone Review (PS5) – Between you and me, I had only heard a little about Grindstone before taking this review on. I knew it had been popular before when it was initially released on Apple Arcade in 2019. That was about it though, I knew nothing of the gameplay, its systems or even what it was about.
Why did I take it on then? The trailer looked playfully violent and it looked like an excellent palette cleanser after playing a few big, all-encompassing AAA titles.
Grindstone from Capybara Games looks on the surface like one of those match-three Candy Crush-style games which I detest. While having a few slight similarities, thankfully, it plays nothing like those games at all.
Yes, you are chaining the same coloured objects together but how you do it and the systems surrounding it make it much more rewarding and a lot more exciting to play. Plus there’s no microtransaction being shoved in your face every fourteen seconds, which is nice.
Grindstone Review (PS5) – Cathartic Cartoon Violence
Pure Pulverising Poetry
In Grindstone, you take the role of either Jorj or Jorja, two burley characters who live in a cabin, covered in snow. If you are told, which I don’t think you were, I cannot for the life of me remember what the story or driving force for your actions is.
That does not really matter though, as this is a level-based arcade game with gameplay upfront and the narrative somewhere down the back of the sofa.
What I will say is that it does have a bit of world-building in it, the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous art style and characters really do paint a lovely picture of the world you inhabit and where you will spend most of your time smashing through.
Grindstone, in a nutshell, is about pummeling little cartoon creeps, getting resources and getting out before you get your ass handed to you.
Levels are made up of three different coloured creeps and you move your character through combos of these creeps, that are the same colour, building up your attack power as you go.
Go Hard or Go Home
The reason you build up your attack power is to kill harder, more elaborate and even boss enemies that take a certain amount of attack power to kill. For example, if a little chubby bat appears with ten health, you need to create a chain of ten creeps, or other things, before you can kill it.
How you do this, in conjunction with items, armour and Grinstones is where the meat in this quirky little title lies.
At certain thresholds of attack power, you will spawn Grindstones somewhere on the map. These Grindstones not only serve as a currency to purchase upgrades and health top-ups with but also allow you to carry on your combo to a different colour.
This enables you, if you have several Grindstones to make chains and combos that cover the whole map and do some ultra-powerful attacks.
These attacks are so visceral too, Jorjo’s speed increases as does the pitch and volume of the soundtrack. Not only that but the haptic intensity also ramps up as you slice your way through an endless amount of creeps.
It’s so satisfying to pull off massive combos and the sensation the sound and haptics give you just makes it incredibly addictive and a massive feast for your senses.
A Workman Always Blames His Tools
While your slicing and dicing you will be collecting, from enemies and environmental objects, resources to craft and repair your gear. From armour to arrows and from swords to potions, you have three slots to build your character as you wish.
These tools are vital for the later, more difficult areas and they not only make you tougher to kill but also allow you to manipulate the map to lull off those awesome combos.
I say harder to kill because you have three hit-points and as your copping up creeps they get more and more agitated as the level progresses. If you land on a square within an agitated enemy’s attack range you will take a hit and therefore risk losing all your hard-earned loot.
Luckily there’s a simple button press that highlights the squares that are in danger, meaning you can meander your way through them ending up in just the right space to survive.
Risk vs Reward
This whole system of creeps getting agitated creates a risk-reward system that makes staying in the level harder and harder as time progresses. Levels have other objectives like chests and other goals to achieve and staying longer is rewarded.
Just be careful as staying longer is like sitting amongst the opposing fans at a football match, the longer you stick around, the more likely you are to get thumped in the mouth. Good times.
Apart from the main game, there are challenges, bosses and a myriad of other tweaks, systems and unlockables and you have a bouquet of the weird and wonderful, a veritable plethora of cartoon violence. You could say I am quite addicted to this game, but I am not the only one.
Since introducing it to my other half I now rarely get a look in.
A Punchy Presentation
I absolutely adore Gindstones presentation. It’s so colourful, so bright and it looks lovely on my 4k HDR panel. Not only that the creatures and characters you meet are all so uncannily weird. I love this kind of stuff and sometimes, much prefer it to a realistic graphical style with no inventiveness or character.
The music in Grindstone is also superb. Throbbing baselines and awesome, catchy tunes had me bobbing my head as I scythed my way through thousands upon thousands of enemies.
There are many earworms here and it has not been since probably Hades that I have enjoyed a soundtrack so much.
I do have to touch on the performance side of things too and I have to state how amazingly Grindstone performs. It’s so smooth, bug-free and in my many hours played I have seen not a single bug whatsoever.
I appreciate that a lot and in the age of the rushed, patch-later video game culture, it should be applauded. Claps all around.
Addictive, Rewarding and…Take It Off Me Now Please
Not normally my cup of tea but Grindstone is fantastic. An addictive feast for the eyes and ears. It’s like digital crack, the haptics, music and presentation all create a festival of awesomeness in your hands. It’s quick, can be played in short bursts and I just love it.
It makes you feel clever, it makes you smile and that is what I currently want from a game.
After a few massive open-world titles that had glitches, issues and did not respect my time, Grindstone is a blessing. Quick, fun and very so, so rewarding. If you have fifteen quid or so I cannot recommend it enough.
Right, I have a platinum to chase. Pass me my sword, blood needs to be spilt.
Grindstone is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher.