It’s been a long time coming! GRIME has been on my radar for the best part of four years now. Since being first released on Steam back in August 2021, here we are, almost an entire US presidential term later, as GRIME makes its long awaited appearance on Nintendo Switch in January 2024.
The Nintendo Switch port has been in the offing for so long that its release comes in the same calendar year that GRIME II is expected to be released later in 2024. This version that I’ll be reviewing is the ‘Definitive Edition’ which includes the base game and three pieces of DLC that have been released over the years; Colors of Rot, Tinge of Terror and Parting Shade.
GRIME is incredibly light on plot and story, so it’s not entirely easy for me to set the scene. However, you play as the Vessel, a being whose body is made out of rock and whose head is an ACTUAL BLACKHOLE. Yes, you read that right. The iconography in GRIME is incredibly stark, dark and depressing. All of the lifeforms that you either fight against or interact with seem to be a mutation of half rock/half distorted human features. The landscape itself is made out of eyes that follow you, or giant heads carved into the floors and walls. It really is as bleak as it sounds but my goodness, does it look amazing. The game world is vast and the difficulty is brutal. Oh, did I mention this is a Soulslike? Yeah, it is, and it’s not for the faint-hearted!
More on GRIME's vast game world; the level design is genius and it all ties together neatly, not to mention that it is jam packed full of secrets and pick-ups. Each area has its own map that won’t show up in your in-game map until you find that respective area’s map beacon. Until you find said beacon, the in-game map is just darkness. At times I was ploughing forward into the abyss, completely guessing which of the seemingly maze-like passageways to take, and had no map for reference. But you know what? I absolutely loved it. The sense of adventure is greatly amplified when you feel lost, alone, and stressed. It may not be for everyone, but for those who, like me, like to get lost and challenged, this is an enthralling experience.
The combat in GRIME is heavily underpinned by RPG elements, as you’d expect for a Soulslike, and the progression is perfectly balanced. A huge part of this is a parry mechanic (known as 'absorbing'), whereby you have a window to absorb an enemy’s melee attacks. The window is well balanced and quite forgiving. A successful parry not only replenishes your health but also deals damage to said enemy. Furthermore, each enemy you defeat gives you ‘mass’, which is the currency you use to upgrade your health, stamina and weapons. The balancing was such that it was fun to gather mass without finding the need or temptation to farm it by killing enemies over and over again. A well-thought-out progression mechanic that doesn’t become prohibitive is fairly rare these days in souslike and the GRIME developers nail it.
- Sparse on story but heavy on atmosphere
- A vast, secret filled game world to explore
- Perfectly balanced progression system
I have a couple of minor design gripes with GRIME, which I’ll address before moving onto the elephant in the room. First of all, there is fall damage, and the Vessel can die when falling from certain heights. I’ve played dozens of metroidvanias and can’t actually remember any others that have this feature (I’m sure someone will correct me). In a game where you are being punished at every corner (fairly so, I might add), this just feels a step too far from my perspective and adds unnecessary frustration to the traversal.
The in-game map in GRIME is perfectly serviceable. One annoyance, though, is that the map boundaries have soft edges and not a hard line indicating you’ve reached their extremities. The frustration this causes is that when you survey the map to plot your next move, it’s unclear which areas you have fully explored. If GRIME is a game of punishing Buckaroo, then the general difficulty aspects are tolerable, but the aforementioned fall damage and lack of map clarity just cause that donkey to start kicking, in my opinion. There’s only so much one person can take!
Finally, that elephant... GRIME does not perform all that well on the Nintendo Switch. It certainly isn’t the first port to befall this fate, nor will it be the last, but what feels particularly disappointing in this instance is that the Nintendo Switch port has supposedly been in development for so long. GRIME lags when there are more than 3 or 4 enemies on screen. The experience in general stutters at various points, and some of the hidden areas that become unobscured when you venture into them suddenly become obscured again when you’re still inside. I actually died a couple of times as a result of this. Let's hope there are patches on the way to make it a smoother gameplay experience and that GRIME II doesn’t have the same issues (if it indeed makes it onto the Nintendo Switch).
- Fall damage feels unnecessary
- Soft edges on in-game map lead to unnecessary backtracking
- Performance is sub-par, and, at times, damages the experience
Final Score: 8/10
The developers of GRIME, Clover Bite, more than deserve all of the praise they’ve received over the last three years. GRIME is up there with the best Soulslike metroidvanias, and the Definitive Edition is great value for money due to all of the content included. As a result of all this GRIME II is one of my most anticipated games of 2024.
However, ultimately, the performance issues on Nintendo Switch mean I’m unable to score it higher, and I’d also recommend any Switch players seriously review whether there are better platforms to enjoy GRIME on.
Thank you for checking out our GRIME Switch review, thank you to Akupara Games for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: