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Gripper Review

Gripper Review

Upon seeing the introduction cinematic for Gripper, I thought that the developer — Heart Core — must be fans of the movie Akira, a bleak, futuristic anime. Players see messages between the main character, None, and his parents. It looks like he has run away from home and hasn’t contacted them for at least six years. Having 1048 unread messages from them, he finally sees this last one from his mother. She warns him to “NEVER ever, under NO circumstances come back home.” She never specifies exactly why, but I’m assuming it is something bad. None tries to go back home, but he is greeted by an enemy named Zero, which looks like it was inspired by Andross from the Star Fox games since he’s just a floating head and hand. He has taken over None’s parent's lab and claimed it as his own. None is easily defeated and wounded, luckily for him, his childhood robot cat named Cat-Kit has “fixes” him up, replacing sections of his destroyed body with machine parts. The catch is, None has to stay on his bike to keep his heart's battery charged, so for the rest of the game, he is tethered to the motorcycle.

Gripper catkit

There are two types of gameplay that make up Gripper: tunnel sequences and boss battles. The tunnel sequences play like an endless runner. You are trying to avoid the random objects that pop up in front of you at speeds so fast there is no way to avoid them, you just smash into them until you play through that same segment enough times to memorise exactly where they pop up. There are quick-time events thrown in that require you to hit a button or take damage. With only four bars of health and no way to recover it, you will die many, many times until you randomly get through the level — by fluke in my case — to the boss battle arena. This whole experience was incredibly frustrating. It seriously made me question my skill as a gamer and made me think that maybe I’m getting too old to play games like these. 

Gripper qte

You may think that it’s just the driving levels that are difficult. But unfortunately, the boss fights were also hard. Each of the five bosses — based on the five stages of grief: anger, acceptance, bargaining, shock, and depression — has a unique design that looks quite good, and each requires a different tactic to defeat them. Though this ends up being more frustrating than it should be because most of the time you have to use your primary weapon, the grappling hook. Gripper wants you to use the grappling hook to grab objects to throw around and pull other things. I found this weapon to be very imprecise, most of the time it felt like I was just throwing it, not sure if I caught the object I was aiming for. Due to the top-down angle, it was very hard to see if the hook was actually attached to something. If I did manage to grab the item that I wanted, throwing it where I wanted was a whole other issue. If your aim is off at all, you will completely miss your target forcing you to try again, all while the enemy and its minions repeatedly attack you. To evade them requires tight controls, as it is essentially a bullet hell-type level, but the controls were never precise enough. The movement of your motorcycle added to the difficulty due to the inertia of the bike, it is almost impossible to come to a full stop. There is a handbrake that you can try using, but it only seems to work when it feels like it. If you are able to avoid all the enemy attacks, it won’t take much to kill your character with only four health bars, so you are sure to repeat this battle multiple times. If you do manage to defeat the boss, you will be rewarded with a new power-up. Though, they aren’t overly effective and will just require you to hit X at the right time to use. You would think being able to jump would help, but it really isn’t that useful.

Gripper shock

Fortunately, the music in Gripper is actually quite good, the high-energy techno beats match the fast-paced action of the game. I am glad that I enjoyed the music, as I kept hearing it over and over again with each death and playthrough! The visuals for the game have a unique art style that reminds me of a comic book. Though the parts with the 3D didn’t feel as nice as the other sections. It felt like it was fuzzy and out of focus, even the main menu has the option to make the text crisp so the letters are easier to read.

Gripper menu

I was really excited to try out this game in the beginning, but after playing it, all I felt was incredible disappointment. Every aspect of the game was unnecessarily difficult due to sections being too long, controls not being precise enough, or being just unreasonable with the number of enemies and bullets coming at you. I had checked in the accessibility section to see if there was an option to make the game a bit easier, sadly there wasn’t, but it was nice to see settings that you can change if you are colour-blind. It’s hard to recommend a game that even if you enjoy difficult titles, just felt unfair. If you aren’t a fan of feeling pure frustration, then I would avoid playing Gripper.

Gripper andross

4.50/10 4½

Gripper (Reviewed on Windows)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

Gripper on paper sounds like a great time, but the way it is carried out just doesn’t work. The game design itself just leads to frustration, instead of a fun experience.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alana Dunitz

Alana Dunitz

Staff Writer

Lover of cats, coffee and all kinds of videogames! With a soft spot for retro and import games.

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Kirill - 12:24pm, 12th April 2023


I'm Kirill, the author of Gripper. I want to apologize for the bad experience you had. We're about to release a MAJOR update with Difficulty Modes and various balance & usability tweaks. I hope you could give Gripper a second chance. It was my dream game started when my mom died. During 5 years of hard development it reflected lots of challenges I had to pass through: divorce, losing IP, getting it back and rebuilding the whole game from scratch with a new team. I just got used to the extremely hard difficulty Gripper introduced. I kindly ask you to give it a second try with difficulty modes and improvements we did for the last 2 weeks. 

Thank you for your patience and time!


Kirill Zolovkin

Producer @ Heart Core

Alana - 03:01pm, 12th April 2023

I will definitely check it out, thanks for letting me know about the updates!