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Gripper – Review

Boss rush games are tricky beasts. They rely on spectacle events that are probably going to be difficult to master and require a gamer to get invested in something that’s going to challenge them over and over again on the same things. Gripper stood out to me with its unique spin on boss rush games – you’ll be trying to kill everything on your motorcycle. Not only that, you’ll also be using a grapple hook to rip off parts of the boss and throw enemies and the environment around. With such a fascinating twist on things and a striking look to boot, I was hopeful that Gripper would excite me.

Instead, I was left raging in frustration and missed opportunity.

The tunnel courses are a nice enough distraction from the boss arenas, although it is a tad unresponsive.

Gripper has two distinct parts to its game. The first is a little like Race The Sun or Overpass where you’ll need to dodge objects as you drive down a tunnel. It’s a bit like an old school dodge em up with additional quick time event buttons to rip open doors or slide under walls. This works fine but has very little warning for avoiding obstacles and levels are designed in a way to move objects into your path at the last second. Once you understand this, these move from frustratingly cheap to quite predictable but passable pieces of gameplay.

Where most of your time will be spent is with the boss battles and here is where my problems lie. Firstly, your bike has a very floaty control scheme that has a fairly tight turning circle but not such a great collision detection. For a motorcycle, you also aren’t particularly fast compared to your boss attacks and the various minions they’ll send your way. This equates to you driving in wide circles hoping to then chop a tight turn in between fire to shake off minions and form enough of a gap to survive the next barrage of fire. Often there is an area of effect for explosions and bombs and as you aren’t agile or fast enough, you’ll get caught up in the edges of explosions and have your health chipped away at over time. There is not a lot you can do about it and that’s annoying.

You’ll spend most of the time with bosses driving in circles wanting to use your grapple hook when you can’t.

Feeling helpless and not making sense of things is quite common on the bosses – especially when it comes to your grapple hook. In order to use your grapple hook you’ll need to wrestle with the not-quite-twin-stick control scheme that will have you trying to aim and throw the hook in the general direction you need it to go. The first problem is that the hook will decide at random what it wants to connect with – not what it actually highlights it will hook onto. The second is to rip something off, the hook draws you in. This in turn always triggers a bosses nearby attacks and again you cannot avoid this. You may be able to advance a part of the boss battle once or twice using the hook but after that you’ll not have enough health to use the grapple hook anymore. This means you’ll rely on a slide attack or throwing scenery at the boss instead. This has next to no impact on their health and stretches boss battles out so long and painfully, you wonder why the hook is being actively excluded from use in the first place.

This kind of gameplay stretching design extends across the board. The UI and environmental triggers to help a player are confusing. There is an upgrade system that requires you to replay levels and speedrun things to unlock secondary weapons but they are always in such short supply, they rarely help you out in battle. Instead, you are stuck driving in circles waiting for something to hit. By boss 3 of 5, I’d given up caring and just wanted the experience to be over. I had become so frustrated at how Gripper seemed to actively hate its own gameplay mechanics, I gave up. I haven’t seen the end of the game and I don’t think I ever will. Some of this will no doubt be down to my own lack of skill with the game – I’m sure I’m missing something here. Most of my problems with Gripper just stem from the game not being fun to play.

If you are looking at boss rush games, Furi or Godstrike are much more accessible and well balanced in my humble opinion. Gripper is a case of style over substance.

Review code provided by developer. Gripper is out now.

Final Thoughts
When a game actively stops its main gimmick being a viable option, it feels wrong and frustrating. Hard to play and hard to love.
Excellent visual style.
The tunnel interludes offer a nice distraction.
Some really good ideas that make Gripper stand out from a gameplay perspective...
...but Gripper actively tries to stop you using all these ideas, making it feel hollow.
Fiddly control scheme and physics.
Boss battles are drawn out much longer than they need to be.
Feels unfair at times and out to get you with cheap deaths.

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