It’s often easiest to discuss games through reference to others. On the surface, Grime is a 2D Metroidvania with combat taken straight out of the Souls series, but the overall experience is so well put together that such a reductive description can’t begin to sum it up.
Grime comes to us from a very small Israeli indie team called Clover Bite who have crafted a very distinctive look and feel for their game which is unlike anything else I’ve played. Grime’s treatment of lore and backstory is reminiscent of genre classics like Hollow Knight in its obscurity and reliance on drip feeding story rather than lengthy exposition.
Visually it has a uniquely mineral based aesthetic that makes it feel otherworldly. Both you and the many strange creatures you encounter are literally made of stone and everything collapses into fragments when it is defeated.
The weirdness and obscurity of the game’s backstory means that I can’t fully comment on the narrative aspects until I finish it. While reviewing games before completing them isn’t ideal, Grime is a special case. I complete most games I start through a combination of experience and stubbornness and this has taken me a fair way through the challenges of Grime, but I’ve hit a few walls along the way. It may well be that I never quite reach the end, though I’ve played plenty enough to have fallen in love and be in a position to recommend the game.
The opening scenes of the game feature a surreal embrace between two humanoid figures before your character begins to be formed from the rocks and dirt. At first you must drag yourself along with your hands whilst the opening credits begin to scroll, but soon your legs are finished and you can begin in earnest. Running and jumping here has a real sense of weight to it – a far cry from the floaty nature of games like Hollow Knight. This doesn’t mean that the controls aren’t responsive, but instead that you must commit to your movements rather than rely on agility.
It’s a little while into the game before you receive your first weapon – just long enough to get a feel for the distinctive controls. There are around thirty different maces, swords and other weapons to find across the game, but I have mostly settled on two or three that I alternate between as the situation requires. This is partly a personal choice and partly determined by the fact that weapons require specific skill levels across the various character attributes. This approach works well, but I would have liked to see some kind of skills respec available as many of my early level up points went into attributes that I don’t really need.
Your attributes are Health, Focus, Strength, Dexterity, and Resonance. Most of these are self explanatory with Focus being the equivalent of Stamina in other games and the latter three all being linked to the weapon types. There are no player classes, so it’s the way that weapons are tied to skill point choices that lead to different character builds. Early on I concentrated on Strength only to find that the main linked weapons are slow and cumbersome for my style of play. I haven’t really grappled with Resonance weapons (in particular some odd lamps) but there are YouTube videos of players using these to ridiculous effect.
Everything the world of Grime is made entirely of rocks, from the environments to the characters and weapons. Defeating enemies sees you collecting their ‘mass’ which you can use to level up and spend in trader encounters. The equivalent of Dark Souls’ bonfire is a massive crystal that you punch to activate. As is to be expected, saving at one of these brings all the standard enemies back to life, meaning that you have to either fight them again or try to avoid them. At first, this can be annoying, especially in a new area where you haven’t activated the map and have no idea where you are. After a while, though, you find that this approach forces you to learn both the layout of the areas and the attack patterns of your foes.
Combat is fantastic in Grime. Attacks have real weight to them, enemies have a surprising amount of attacks and even basic enemies can kill you quickly if you aren’t careful. As you get better, though, and especially as you learn the patterns of attacks and parries, you can pull off some impressive victories. Along with absorbing the mass of your defeated foes, some enemies can be absorbed by a well timed parry when their health is low. Absorb a set number of these and an ability will be unlocked that you can spend Hunt points on applying. These Hunt points are awarded for defeating more challenging enemies and range from direct damage buffs to extra Health or Focus.