We’ve known Super Rare Games for their super cool physical releases for Nintendo Switch however with their latest expansion, Super Rare is now publishing titles under their Super Rare Originals brand as well. Their very first title is Grapple Dog, and I was super keen to try it out because it looked amazing from the trailers and initial PR that I saw about the title. After playing and completing the title, I am happy to say that Super Rare Originals has set a really high bar with their very first release alongside Medallion Games. This is our review of the Steam version of Grapple Dog in which we grapple around as a dog and drive a little boat to various islands.
On its core, Grapple Dog is a 2D action platformer that features pixelated visuals. The very first thing that you will notice about the title is definitely its brilliant art style and pixelated visuals. The story of the title follows a little dog called Pablo who accidentally frees the robotic overlord called Nul and now must work with his friends in order to save the world from annihilation. While having a traditional hero-saving-the-universe storyline, you will not really care about the title’s story once you’ve played the first level because this is where the title really shines.
Your main tool of movement in the game is a helpful grappling hook which you will use plenty during your adventure. However, your grappling hook is not the only movement wonder as you have plenty of other tricks up your sleeve as well. You can ground pound to open new ways, jump from wall to wall, and sprint to gain additional momentum to reach areas that are otherwise hard to reach. One thing that I would like to mention here is that the gameplay of Grapple Dog is extremely fluid. This is evident right from the very start of the game.
Pablo moves around in total control, and you can jump and swing around in a complete fluid motion. You feel the smoothness in every button you press and its execution on the screen by Pablo. This is the very reason that each level in the game also has a Time Trial as well where your goal is to beat a level in its fastest time available. The smoothness of the gameplay greatly reminded me of Rayman Origins and Legends. I am talking about that level of gameplay fluidness. The levels are designed to take full use of this movement ease as well.
The levels are designed in a way that you will need to use the best of your skills with the grappling hook and other skills. You will need to swing, jump and run around to reach hidden areas, collect various collectibles and unlock things that are not straightforward in the game. While the game only has 6 worlds and different bonus levels, each of these levels offers a fair amount of hidden content that will make you come back for more swinging action. The levels are different islands, and you use a cute, little boat to travel to them.
Apart from the main islands, you also unlock bonus levels after completing the main levels. These offer various timed, challenges and reward you with coins upon their competition. Once you complete the main level, you unlock its Time Travel mode as well and Grapple Dog seems to have a knack for speed, so I am glad that the developer decided to include this mode in the game. If the first playthrough was not enough for you, you can jump back in the level and try to beat it in the fastest time to set a new record and gloat about it. The bonus levels are all about timing and overcoming various challenges or meeting certain goals. Each of them offers a different challenge so they offer a diversion from the traditional story levels.
Apart from your friends, the levels also feature different NPCs with which you can interact and learn more about the world. To keep you in the mood, the game also throws in artsy cutscenes during the levels. At key points, you also get to fight various bosses but naturally, the game is not that hard unless you make Time Trials your worst enemy. Overall, I found Grapple Dog extremely chilled and a title that you can relax to after a hectic day at work. If you want to rush through the title, you can do so as well however if you want to take your time with it, you can do that as well apart from areas where time becomes a limit.
Another important thing to mention here is that Grapple Dog comes with a full set of accessibility options as well to suit a diverse player base. You have the options like turning on No Damage Mode, Infinite Jumps or even turning the background to a static image if that is suitable for you. Having such options in an indie platformer is nothing short of a blessing since normally we see such accessibility options only in AAA titles. Medallion Games has really done a solid job on this one. Accessibility is becoming a big thing in video games these days and it is good to see even the indie developers taking this aspect of gaming seriously.
Coming to the technical side of Grapple Dog, the Steam version of Grapple Dog is extremely stable. I did not remember seeing any sort of glitches or bugs in the game. The visuals did not have any choppiness to them, and the sound design is good as well. The gameplay is fluid and hardly anything feels out of place. The frames are extremely steady but then again the game is not that demanding on hardware either. However, one thing I would have loved is to have a custom key binding option in the game. At this point, there is no option to have any sort of custom key bindings, and missing this option on the Steam option is not a good thing since many players want to play with their own custom keys.
Grapple Dog sets a new bar for indie platformers with its smooth gameplay mechanics and amazing soundtrack. The game also shows that you do not need a very high budget to deliver an amazing experience. With tons of indie titles coming out every day, it is exceptionally hard to differentiate the good titles from the mediocre ones and I am glad to report here today that Grapple Dog is one indie title that should be on everyone’s buying list. Everything ranging from the level design, the boss battles, to the fluid gameplay, that serves as icing on the top, everything about this 2D platformer is top-notch. If you love playing indie titles or you love the thrill of fast-paced platformers, Grapple Dog easily sits at the top tier and definitely deserves to be on your must-play list.