Everyone has played a game that kept them up at night. Maybe it was due to the stress of not being able to beat an especially difficult boss and it was hard to sleep through that anger. Or maybe it was just too damn fun to put down and you didn’t realize what time it was until you saw the sun coming up. Sometimes it’s both, which happens to be the case when I play Grimvalor. It has been out on mobile for Android and iOS, but this review is for the new Switch release of the game.
Right off the bat, I got the feeling that I’ve seen this game before. Direlight describes the game as having drawn inspiration from many others. Well-versed players would be able to identify some of them. As a platformer, it can easily be put in the Metroidvania house. The fluid combat that keeps you on your toes utilizing different weapons and abilities? That smells like Devil May Cry to me. The adrenaline rush you get while playing is no stranger to fans of hack-and-slashes. The environment and character designs are pleasing to the eyes. The story isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s nice to have it as a way to give context for your goals. While it’s a plus for a game to feel familiar, it can easily lean into generic territory. Putting together individually good aspects of different games won’t necessarily result in one especially awesome experience.
The game runs satisfyingly smoothly. It didn’t lag at all or heat up my Switch on handheld mode even when I was being swarmed by what almost felt like an unfair number of enemies. The tutorial is one of the best ones I’ve played. There’s no hand-holding or force-feeding of information. You learn mechanics as you need them, but you don’t necessarily get punished for not being able to do them successfully. This intro to the game quickly culminates as you meet the boss because you get to practice all that you’ve learned. The transition to the main portion of the game thereafter is seamless.
The game includes a much-appreciated option to play on arachnophobia mode which replaces all spider-like designs with something more palatable for those who have that fear. Players who find the game too easy are rewarded with a New Game+ mode that features an even more exciting challenge while carrying over all the stats and equipment you had at the end of your first run. Perhaps my only big bone to pick with the game is the lack of ranged attacks since their absence takes away a lot of opportunities for satisfying combos to be made like in some of the games Grimvalor takes inspiration from.
Grimvalor is overall decent and a good addition to any action or hack-and-slash library. Some of the best games are equally fun for both genre newbies and veterans, and I consider Grimvalor to be exactly that. It’s an impressive first piece from Direlight and I can’t wait to see more from them in the future.