Pepper Grinder Wallpaper nintendo switch
March 29, 2024

Every good dish needs a dash of pepper. So is this latest indie platformer flavourful enough? Dig into our Pepper Grinder review!

Piracy is back in full swing this year! After working on their original debut title for 2 years, Developer Riv Hester (Ahr Ech) pivoted to a different project after it blew up on social media unexpectedly – that project was titled “Pepper Grinder”.

Pepper Grinder takes the platforming genre to new heights (and depths) with its incredible level design, awe-inspiring set pieces, and approachable traversal mechanics. Its challenging difficulty and time attack modes will have players striving for perfection, channelling their inner land dolphin, and tunnelling to victory.

Pepper Grinder Review Story – A Straightforward Swashbuckler

Solo Treasure Hunter ‘Pepper’ searches high and low for any booty she can find! After a violent storm scuttles Pepper’s ship, however, she and her small fortune wash ashore. Coming to, Pepper finds her riches being ripped from her by a gang of Gnarly Narwhal-like critters called Narlings – along with their mysterious leader.

Pepper Grinder Switch review big bug

Chasing the thieves down, our hero is suddenly thrown from a bridge. Grasping for a handhold, she snatches a Power Tool out of the wall on her way down. Now wielding her new Grinder, our hero sets out through treacherous lands to get her treasure back.

Pepper Grinder review main character art

As for the story in-game goes, that’s pretty much it. Pepper Grinder features no dialogue and characters outside the roster of regular enemies only interact a handful of times during cutscenes. This straightforward premise allows the focus to fall on the tight gameplay and stellar level design.

Pepper Grinder Review Gameplay – Boring? Hell yeah!

Pepper Grinder boasts a simple and approachable control scheme that never needs more than 2 buttons and a direction to be input at once. All the platformer staples of running and jumping are there, however, the magic occurs as Pepper starts digging.

Once underground, only directional input is required – allowing the player more focus and in turn, enabling more control over movement. Emerging out of whatever material Pepper is boring through has her leaping into the air like a majestic dolphin, namely Ecco the Dolphin, one of the inspirations for this very game!

Pepper Grinder review Nintendo Switch gameplay

What is a game without a grappling hook?! Conveniently placed around the world are grappling points that allow Pepper to either zip directly to them or swing around them perpetually. Inverse to drilling underground, grappling rips the directional control off of the player, asking them instead to time their detachment correctly for a sizeable launch in the direction Pepper is facing.

In certain levels throughout the game, the player will come across Drill Bits, these attachments convert Pepper’s Grinder into other tools including a key, a Minigun, A Rocket Launcher and more! These levels keep gameplay alive and fresh, tailor-made environments that work in tandem with each individual accessory – in turn creating some of the most memorable experiences of the game.

Pepper Grinder review Nintendo Switch grappling hook

Pepper Grinder’s true magic comes from its phenomenal level design, expansive set pieces, and boss encounters. The creativity, variety, and quality on showcase rivals that of Nintendo. New features, hazards, and enemy types are introduced consistently throughout the journey, providing a unique experience with each new level played.

Distinct, detailed locations come with unique dangers that need to be conquered and each one feels grander and more treacherous than the last – nailing the feeling of progression, like a perfect call and response between the player’s expertise and the game’s difficulty.

Pepper Grinder Switch review weapons

This is all complimented by the game’s awesome feat of spectacle in the various boss encounters. Fast reactions along with mastery over movement and precision are required during these nail-biting battles. They are intense and demanding but fair, with attacks being well-telegraphed and never too difficult to avoid.

If encounters prove too difficult, there is always an option to visit the in-game shop for some extra health before each foray. The currency that is exchanged is earned through playing and collecting gems in each level. Up to 4 extra “armour” can be purchased at a time giving the player double the health they regularly have as they enter a level.

Pepper Grinder Review Visuals – Pixel Piracy!

The beautifully expressive and lively characters on display in Pepper Grinder are a perfect demonstration of great art direction. The variety of distinct Narlings through the world keeps the player engaged, and each one is suited to their respective environment. Narlings that are encountered in the Giant’s kitchen wield large knives and throw hot soup with giant ladles, while flyings Narlings tend to hang around places where the player is likely to be airborne themselves.

Pepper Grinder gameplay gif

Bosses continue this trend on a grander scale, feeling intimidating with their giant forms looming over the small-statured Pepper. Levels are filled with vibrant, contrasting colours that make everything easy to make out. There is never a moment I felt confused or lost in some way, every path is well broadcast and littered with gems to collect – guiding the player through the level without handholding.

Pepper Grinder game manual

There’s even an old-school game manual packed with art!

Revisiting spectacle, each time the player defeats even the most basic enemy – there’s a slight freeze in the game to emphasise the damage dealt. This is amplified during the final moments of a boss fight as Pepper bores straight through the opponent’s weak point in a ruthless moment of carnage.

There are so many small details that make the pixel animation in Pepper Grinder next level. Without spoiling too much, my favourite animation in the game is when this tiny swashbuckling heroine mimes a cutthroat gesture at someone who has clearly messed with the wrong person.

Pepper Grinder Review Audio – Beats and Booty

Audio mixing is performed quite well in-game, having a lower drone for the Grinder’s constant whirring while Narlings and other prominent elements of the game are emphasised for effect, such as the death crunch of a Narling meeting the tip of a spinning power tool or the twinkle of each gem Pepper collects through her escapades.

However, the absolute highlight of the audio in Pepper Grinder is the soundtrack and the way the game handles it. There are a few levels where there will seem to be an understated soundtrack, it being muffled or non-existent. This is only until a trigger in the world is hit, whether that be a bomb exploding or a certain enemy dying at the hands of the player. This is when composer XEECEE comes in to blow minds.

Music in the beginning levels has a whimsical nature, luring the player into a sense of security to accompany the lower stakes of the earlier levels. This soon changes with the progression of the story.

Keeping up with the consistent ramping thrill, the music in later chapters keeps the player engaged through exciting, high-energy music. There were plenty of times it felt like I was genuinely playing in some kind of action movie, storming the gates of some Narling compound.

Pepper Grinder Review Extras/Post-Game – Treasure Hunts and Time Attacks

Pepper Grinder has a fairly short base game, running only a couple of hours from start to finish without any extra tasks completed. For players that want an extra challenge or have a creative streak, there are 2 features to keep playing for after credits have rolled.

Hidden in each level, there are 5 Golden Skull coins used to purchase extras in each shop around the world. Most of them will be found during regular play, while hidden they aren’t terribly hard to find. There are some that will most certainly take some investigating. These coins are used to purchase keys for unlockable levels, as well as sticker pages (more on those momentarily) and cosmetics for Pepper, unfortunately, the cosmetics are only relegated to a change in hair or coat colour.

Pepper Grinder Nintendo Switch golden skull coins

Sticker pages are used to create small pieces of artwork in-game using, you guessed it, stickers. These stickers are unlocked by buying them from shops with the same gems that are used to purchase armour. This process can be tedious, as it takes completing a 2-3 second animation to buy a single sticker, with no option to buy in bulk or to guarantee a sticker that’s been collected previously.

Pepper Grinder review Nintendo Switch sticker

Each world has its own unique range of stickers also, meaning this tedium has to be experienced multiple times over for completionists or artists. Additionally, there are a handful of stickers that can only be unlocked by the second extra feature, by completing gruelling time attack challenges.

Each stage (Including all bosses) has 3 medals to be obtained through absolute mastery of all things Pepper and Grinder, with the gold medal leaving little to no room for mistakes and even going so far as to need shortcuts that potentially leave the player close to death. I cannot understate the challenge I faced by going through every level and getting the gold on each one. By the time every medal has been obtained, a feeling of godhood has passed over me and all I want is more Pepper Grinder.


While Pepper Grinder is a relatively short game, every second of it is filled to the brim with awe-inspiring action! The attention to detail in every cell of this game makes the game a must-play. It does a service to the platforming genre and I cannot wait to see more, not only from this world but from this developer.

So, why should you play Pepper Grinder?

  • Constant, ramping platforming action from start to finish
  • Beautifully animated pixel art style
  • Perfect difficulty

But why shouldn’t you play Pepper Grinder?

  • Short campaign
  • Practically no story

A review code on Nintendo Switch was kindly provided for the purpose of our Pepper Grinder review. For more platforming goodness, check out our Penny’s Big Breakaway review and jump on the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the latest indie games!

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