How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Griizzland uses literal levels to divide its various sections, but optionally there is backtracking to use powers you’ve obtained, which you will need to do to see everything the game has to offer.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~4 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Grizzland was provided by the developer
Buy Grizzland if you like…
- Exploration over Combat
- Shorter Games
- Multiple Endings
- Monochromatic Presentation
▼ Review continues below ▼
The concept of memory is something that Video Games use often to involve the player in the game’s world. Memory loss allows the story to start in medias res so that the player can get right into the action. Griizzland sort of does that, but it’s a little different. It takes full advantage of the fact that when you put your hands on the controller of a new IP like this, you have no idea what to expect until the game introduces its tutorial and however it wants to present its narrative. At its core, Griizzland is something of an interactive mystery, and being a Metroidvania style game allows uncovering that mystery to be fun in that explorative unfolding way. Combat and the game’s other elements are incidental to this goal, and Griizzland’s complete focus on allowing the player to come to his or her own conclusions is part of what makes it a great game.
After a short tutorial where you have a lot of the game’s power-ups from the outset, you’re thrown into the game proper without single ability to your name; you can’t even jump. You’re given no information on what you’re supposed to be doing or why, but there’s a tree in the early area of the game that keeps talking about how thirsty it is. Defending nature is something we often do in video games, so collecting water seems like the obvious thing to do. Maybe it’s because of other indie games that use similarly monochromatic palettes, but with my lack of knowledge of what goals I should be achieving I was immediately suspicious of every action I took. I even tried to avoid killing enemies for a very long time in case there was some pacifist ending to shoot for (I’m not entirely positive that there isn’t.)
But collecting water was the only thing the game gave me to do that seemed somewhat clear, so might as well go for it. Water vessels double up as checkpoints – restoring your health and respawning you at that point when you die. So on each level of the game, your object is to use every checkpoint at least once – then it’s back to the center of the stage to move up a level.
Along your way you’ll be faced with some basic enemy obstacles, each one having specific and predictable behavior. Bats take a minute to break off their perches, so if you’re fast enough you can avoid their pursuit. Dinos will chase you down, and these weird dwarf men will run up to you and explode. Each playable area consists of a single screen rather than scrolling around (similar to La-Mulana), so every obstacle can be tackled an a controlled area. Understanding of enemy patterns and methodically moving between screens is the key to keeping your health up. Your sword is very slow and awkward to use, and swinging puts you in a very vulnerable state for a while. You can combo your attack to mitigate this somewhat, but ultimately knowing when you’re safe to attack is far more important than your reflexes – which is going to be a turn-off to anyone looking for something more similar to the more action oriented Metroidvania games out there.
Combat isn’t what makes Griizzland great though. It’s figuring out how to fill in every square of the map and finding all of the notes that expose what’s really going on in the game’s world. Paying attention to the level architecture and keeping track of where you might want to come back to once you get new powers is rewarding. Solving the NPC’s various quests is sometimes even surprising. In spite my having been exposed to numerous gaming tropes to the point of possibly being jaded, I still found myself completely intrigued by what Griizzland has to offer. It’s beyond the scope of a review to spoil anything further, but I think it’s safe to say that if you enjoy the mystery aspect that a lot of Metroidvania games are able to capture, you’ll enjoy Griizzland.
I probably should mention one other minor thing that might annoy some people; the game really only has one song. It plays different music when you fight bosses, and the song will be somewhat altered when you’re underwater or in the game’s cave area, but for the most part you’ll be listening to a single melody. I personally liked it – it’s a fine 8-bitish track from a very talented music artist, but it’s also still stuck in my head several days after finishing the game. If that kind of thing bugs you then definitely consider having some MP3s to supplement the soundtrack.
Griizzland has a few quirks as mentioned, but what it does well is very strong. It’s a relaxing explorative game that simply put me in a good mood after finishing it. At its budget price and not too obtrusive length (but also not quite short enough to be a Mini-Metroidvania), I have no problem recommending this to absolutely anyone who enjoys a good unfolding enigma.
Swinging the sword is slow and awkward, putting you in precarious positions, however adapting to it is not only possible, it's fun
The only challenge to the platforming is figuring out how to get to places you're ''Not supposed to be'' - not a dexterity challenge
Exploration uncovers secrets that reveal the truth behind your actions, and finding all the collectables is a joy
Primary puzzle is fiiguring out how to access all of the game's collectables. There is the occasional ''Traditional'' puzzle as well
The way the story is told is expertly crafted withiin video game narrative conventions, though the overall message isn't profound
The greyscale large pixels convey everything it needs to convey while maintaining a striking aesthetic
The music is excellent, but there's really only one song for most of the game, which might become a nuisance to some
There are some speed run challenge options, but overall this is a game you complete, not repeat.
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All Time: Positive
(93% of 15 Reviews)