Genre: Action, Arcade, Adventure, Platform
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 28/02/2020
Price: £4.49 – Rapid Reviews were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Grizzland is a memorable, monochromatic microcosm of all that is good about gaming. Whilst gamers seek their next dopamine fix from 4K this and VR that, some developers roll up their sleeves and take it back to where it all began in the grand old age of black and white. Khud0, with the backing of eastasiasoft, have done just that by bringing Grizzland to our screens and, oddly enough, it feels right at home.
Set on Grizzled Planet, Grizzland is an open world, Metroidvania-like platformer whereby you control a 2D character who is equipped with a number of items, skills and abilities to tackle the secrets of the land. True to its retro origins, the game offers little in the way of instruction and allows you to embark on a journey of self-discovery across a variety of different levels – with the option to travel back to previously tread ground if you so wish.
You begin the game with a short tutorial and then you are free to roam as you please. There is a thirsty tree to provide an early objective to pin your decision-making around, but after that, it’s on you. As you traverse the open world, you encounter enemies known as ‘Dinos’ which come in all manner of shapes and sizes. You will also find vials of water, notes and unique items to aid you on your quest. What that quest is will be something for you to discover for yourselves and makes Grizzland an excellent distraction from some of the more prescriptive titles on the eShop at present.
Whilst the game is an open world, it has to be noted that it is displayed to the player in single screen segments. This is particularly helpful as it allows for patterns to be identified in enemy movements and can be defeated on your own terms, at your own pace. It can also make the game more challenging as you unlock new abilities throughout the journey, some of which are required in earlier parts of the game. Remembering where these parts are can be difficult and the map is needed for support. With only single screens to prompt you when retracing your steps, it is definitely a challenge at times.
The sword is the weapon of choice for your unlikely hero and takes some time to get used to. It’s all about timing and the early moments with Grizzland can be a cause of frustration. Persevering though – something I think this game is trying to remind us all about the importance of – allows the player to reap the rewards as they progress. Enemy encounters are quick if you are careful and ensure the focus is placed more so on what you can find than what you can defeat. The same can’t be said for the boss battles though.
There is an intelligence to the design of each boss battle which could quite easily be overlooked as appearances can be deceiving. Each has its own quirks to overcome and whilst they won’t prove difficult to defeat, they can be a little fiddly. This ultimately raises the question of how retro a game should look and feel, as it could be predicted that the aesthetics may undersell the game to those who aren’t open to it. The purpose, direction and decision-making behind Grizzland is, for the most part, excellent and indicative of a developer with a clear vision and a keen eye for a good game.
Grizzland is a breath of fresh air in an over-saturated market of brightly lit environments and elaborate plot-lines. Its combat may be limited, the retro aesthetics not for everyone, and it is a relatively short experience, but for a reminder of the components which make a game great, Grizzland is right on the money – especially with a retail price of £4.49.