Developer: Medallion Games
Publisher: Super Rare Games
Genre(s): Platformer, Arcade, Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC – Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 10/02/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
The Grappling Hook
Grapple Dog is an action platformer that follows Pablo the dog on his quest to save the world from an evil robot. Along the way, I met a host of allies, fought robotic enemies, and made use of my grappling hook to manoeuvre through levels. Does this adventure keep me hooked? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As soon as I began my adventure, I was introduced to Pablo and a few of his coworkers trying to find ancient treasures. I liked how the plot was established, but I did not end up feeling passionate about any of the characters. The story worked well to establish the premise but did not do much else. Though the story did not touch me, I did not feel it needed to. I was not let down by the lack of meaningful story in Grapple Dog.
Moreover, despite a lacklustre story, the game features a lovely atmospheric design. Non-playable characters are easy to interact with, the environments are distinct, and there is a clear theme in each level. The worldbuilding is excellent. Each area has a distinct personality too. There are various atmospheres and worlds to explore. Though Grapple Dog did not feature a gripping story, it had a fleshed-out world which improved the overall experience of the game.
Swing Down Chariot
Though the world-building was nice, the gameplay of Grapple Dog is far more memorable. I progressed through various levels searching for a bell at the end. My character had basic movements, such as a jump and traditional horizontal movement. I also made use of my grappling hook. My character was more than capable of dealing with any of the inbound obstacles. The character was designed well. However, I would have liked to move faster. The base character run speed was very slow. Plus, since only specific areas could be tethered to, I could not use my grappling hook to speed past certain areas. Still, I had a lot of fun progressing through the levels.
The levels in Grapple Dog were distinct and each focused on a specific new concept for me to explore. I encountered new enemies, leveraged different interactable objects, and evaded traps. The levels were always readable. Enemy attacks were telegraphed, dangerous objects had clear hitboxes, and they typically progressed left-to-right, meaning it was not hard to find my way. The levels were often a lot of fun, and I enjoyed experimenting with the new mechanics showcased in each one.
Unfortunately, Grapple Dog focuses heavily on including one new concept in each stage. While it makes understanding the new mechanics easy, typically, the new mechanics are not revolutionary enough to warrant an individual stage. I would have liked to see the developers include multiple new ideas into one level. This was compounded because the level assets included rarely altered the gameplay much. They helped to make the levels feel different, but they rarely revolutionized the way I played the game or changed my strategies much.
All Blinged Out
Though the individual levels did not change my strategy, I was immediately taught not to rush through levels. Throughout each level, I could collect various collectables. There were items hidden all over the map. It was a challenge to find out where each one was. Collectables make the game a lot more fun, and the collectables in Grapple Dog were well placed. However, these collectables were not optional. I needed to collect many of these gems to fight the boss fight at the end of each world.
Moreover, there were vegetables placed throughout each level. Collecting eighty-eight per cent or more of them awarded me with an additional two gems. Objectively, this works, but I think it would have been fun to rush through levels, as I did in Within the Blade. Sometimes, avoiding optional content and racing to the end of a stage is a lot of fun, and I could not do that until I collected enough gemstones in Grapple Dog. Since I needed the gemstones to progress through the worlds, I had to take my time in each level, regardless of whether I wanted to. Though the collectables were fun to collect, mandating them took away some of the enjoyment, as even though I never had to collect every gemstone, missing a gemstone frequently made me dissatisfied even though I had just completed a level.
Off to the Races
Though I needed to collect the gemstones on my first playthrough of a level to progress, the developers did tailor Grapple Dog to speedrunners. Each level has a built-in time trial mode, making it easy to measure how quickly a level was beaten. There are three different medals to obtain, meaning there is a tangible reward to performing highly too. Racing through the levels was a lot of fun, and this helps broaden the audience of the game. This time trial mode works well and is an excellent incentive once the game is completed.
Hordes of Robots
The enemy designs were not nearly as interesting as the movement or level design. Most enemies were often extremely simple, with basic, easy to evade patterns. Sure, the game had many challenging sections, but largely, the enemies felt underwhelming. Only a couple of the enemies stood out as unique. Not only were the enemies not different from other games, but many of the enemies failed to be distinct within Grapple Dog. Though visually they looked distinct from one another, they were all robots, and most lacked the personality that many enemies in other games such as Eldest Souls. Since they shared a similar theme throughout the game, and the enemies did not stand out as innovative, I rarely feared them. The primary enemy in this game was falling to a miserable death.
Despite the lack of innovative basic enemies, there were plenty of interesting boss fights. Each one was unique and showcased the plethora of skills that I mastered throughout my journey. These massive machinations always kept me engaged and excited to continue throughout my journey. I did notice that the boss fights featured a lot of waiting, as I could not attack the bosses until certain stages. Though sometimes this can get tedious, the boss fights remained a treat and I enjoyed combatting them.
Crash and Burn
Unfortunately, despite many good things being featured in Grapple Dog, the game did not perform perfectly on the Nintendo Switch. The first few worlds performed wonderfully, and I rarely noticed any issues. However, as I progressed to the later worlds, where more assets were on the screen at once, I noticed substantial slow down. It severely hindered my experience. I was seriously disappointed, as up until around halfway through the game, Grapple Dog performed perfectly. Though this slowdown was not consistent throughout my journey, I was constantly burdened by long loading times and other various issues such as music turning off and the occasional crash. These issues will be factored into the score and may not be present in other ports of the title.
Still, the package is rounded out with some lovely music, at least, when it plays. The soundtrack is jazzy and upbeat. It kept me persevering no matter how many times I died. There were even some levels with vocals. I thought it worked well with the theme of the game.
The visuals were also up to par. Though there were some repetitive enemy designs, and some assets were a bit random, such as green circles levitating mid-air, the vibrant colours and cute creatures made the game more approachable. I was not blown away by the visual style of the game, but it served the purpose, and nothing stood out as unattractive to me.
Grapple Dog has a lot of good things going for it. I enjoyed most of the level design, thought the movement was largely enjoyable, and thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack and environment it offers. Unfortunately, for a game that focuses on precise and fluid gameplay, the frequent occurrences of slowdown and long waiting times seriously diminished my enjoyment. The game was fun, and I would have recommended the game had the game performed perfectly. However, as it stands, there are plenty of better options to select on the Nintendo eShop.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Grapple Dog on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.