PC Gaming Reviews

Gripper Is A Rough Ride With A Promising Future

Author Rating
Gripper - Windows PC


Developer: Heart Core
Publisher: Heart Core
Release Date: March 29, 2023
Available as: Digital

Here may be one of the first disappointments I've played this year, not because Gripper is a bad game, but rather because it's a game that could have been so much more. It's a game set in a cyberpunk dystopia where a near-death experience renders the protagonist a cyborg. The protagonist, None, works with a robotic cat named Cat-Kit and they're off to stop evil, find out about None's past, and exposition of the sort. In all honesty, the narrative is far from a saving grace for Gripper as attempting to understand anyone's motives proved to be a challenge. Fortunately, the game gets the player settled into its gameplay relatively quickly.

There are two "main parts" to a level. The first half is an on-rails tunnel similar to the Special Stages of Sonic the Hedgehog where the player avoids obstacles and make it to the end in relatively one piece. If this was the only detail about Gripper, it would honestly not be a bad project. Putting a car in a tunnel and being asked to avoid spikes, rotating blades, and other nefarious obstacles can be fun but it quickly becomes "level fodder." Dying sets the player back a checkpoint, with higher difficulties limiting the number of checkpoints available to a player. It's the second part of the levels that I have the most issue with as Gripper turns into an arena action-adventure title.

Snarky sidekick? Check. A man who just wants to do his job? Also, Check.

Players use the bike as a weapon, holding the Left Trigger to enter a braking drift that attacks enemies while slowing the player down. The Right Trigger activates a grappling hook that can be used to pull parts of the environment to the player's liking. Doing this can unearth hidden health power-ups, greatly needed as health packs are hard to come by outside of adding them to your loadout.

The grappling hook is also used as the main weapon to "defeat" bosses although I use the term "defeat" very lightly as it became a coin flip whether or not the hook worked in my favor. The first level faces off against a spider robot, which the robot can be weakened by pulling apart its legs. This is done of course by latching the legs with a grappling hook and ripping it apart while dealing a chunk of damage. I'd much prefer a way to attack outside of the bike, much like how vehicular and on-foot combat were both valid options in Drive Girls

As you progress, more bike skins are unlocked, which isn't much for customization but it's an option.

The player could throw the dismembered part back at the robot, but it doesn't deal as much damage as simply tearing it limb from limb. Doing this is risky as the robot can always counterattack, but it can be stunned in place by throwing an explosive canister at the robot. This leaves enough time for the player to play "robot surgeon" and go to town.

After a certain part of the fight, with all of its legs taken apart, it remains motionless yet constantly fires a barrage of bullets at the player. Going too close will activate a forcefield that deals a lot of damage to None, but the player is unable to stun the boss with explosives anymore. This leaves the player with two options. Continue to pull apart the boss while always being at risk of taking serious damage or throw debris at it until it dies. While the second option is the safer one, not even that is guaranteed as exploding smaller spider bots await the player who will more than likely have low enough health that it becomes a challenge to stay alive.

Most fights begin with the player being asked to solve a "puzzle" within the fight, which isn't always apparent.

The second boss is not that much easier as the player requires the boss, this time a truck, to ram into an electrical generator. This happened several times until I stopped being confused as to what to do next. There's a blink-and-you-miss-it "tutorial" that "teaches" the player to "JUMP!" when they have something grappled. The cat mascot also serves as Gripper's tutorial, and in this instance, I was supposed to grab onto a door and jump to avoid shockwaves while simultaneously pulling the door apart. Guess what I had to do for the second boss?

Pulling on the boss while avoiding shockwaves honestly wasn't the most difficult part. It was aligning the truck with the generator so it could ram into the wall and deal damage. If the truck is "slightly" off, it won't deal any damage whatsoever. It can only charge the player once the "anger" meter is filled. This is filled by forcing the truck to run into objects and hit things, while not being hit yourself. If the controls were slightly more responsive, playing the "align" game with the truck wouldn't be as frustrating.

"Brute forcing" your way through a boss isn't encouraged, but it's sometimes the only option available.

It was here that I stopped playing for a few days. I really wanted to like Gripper so I gave it another chance, even with a patch that was promised to "make things easier." Sure there are some quality-of-life changes and the developers are doing a decent job in trying to make the game accessible, but it's greatly rough around the edges. It's a shame too, as this game has the potential to be great and quirky yet filled with action.

So far, the only game to have successfully done this in 2023 was Hi-Fi Rush, the "indie darling," which isn't an indie game, yet captured what makes others define a genre. It'll take some time for Gripper to attain the same status, but it's something that can be possible. It has an interesting art design, quirky dialogue, and interesting gameplay to go with its music. The structure and pacing can be worked on and in its current state, I'd wait a few months once the roughness has been sanded out.

The "on-rails" bike sections are some of Gripper's best moments.

Gripper is now available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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