Nose to the Grindstone
Remember the good ol’ days? You know, when the App Store was the hot and fresh and phone games weren’t absolutely rotten with timers, and gems, and golden eagles for purchase? Grindstone is a game that looks back fondly on those glorious years. A simple dungeon crawler bursting with charm and instant gratification, Grindstone is one of the best phone games around.
Color matching games are the bread and butter for plenty of phone games. Heck, matching up colourful candies got King purchased for billions of dollars. In Grindstone, you’re a burly mountain of a man who can’t sleep at night. The mountain calls him, for there are legions of smiling multi-coloured creeps infesting the place. And they need to be punished.
In series of grid based levels of escalating difficulty and complexity, it’s up to you to squash the jerks and slobs (yes, the enemies are really called that) and escape with your life, climbing ever higher.
Connecting like coloured creeps is the name of the game, and you can draw paths through them at any angle. Modifier pieces pop up anytime you draw a path of 10, and allow you to switch colours on the fly. When you’re ready, you hit go and watch the extremely satisfying carnage happen. The stoic hero, Jorj, looks progressively more unhinged as your chain gets bigger, almost daring you to clear more of the grid in a single move. What’s more, you’ll get additional resources for putting together gigantic combos.
Being made by Capy, Grindstone has some really outstanding art. Character design is comical and bulging in all the right ways, bringing a healthy dose of whimsy to the table. The animation feels just right. Your burly avatar speeds up as he goes, mercilessly laying waste to the field, and it feels. so. good. It’s oh so simple, but diverse enough to keep me coming back. It’s not rewriting any rules, but it’s fun as heck.
Level completion requirements vary, and have enough variety to keep things interesting. Once you’ve hit the requirement though, you don’t necessarily need to leave right away. Bonus achievements like clearing out tougher baddies (the jerks and slobs) or opening a chest trigger once the main objective is cleared, but sticking around gets progressively tougher.
You see, tougher slobs do damage over a wide area, but the basic creeps can get angry too, and will slap you around it you end a run next to them. With each move, more and more jerks start … behaving like jerks.
It’s just tense enough to make each move feel important, but still light enough to play on a bus or during 5 spare minutes. Do yourself a favour though, and play it wearing headphones – Grindstone’s music is super catchy. It’s a little bit lo-fi, a little bit chill, and the sound effects are super satisfying.
Most satisfying is the opportunity to beat up crowned jerks at the end of a level. as you tap away on their jerk faces, they get more and more beat up, eventually exploding in a cloud of goop. Gross, right? Well, they deserved it.
Outside of levels, there’s obviously progression. Duh. Sometimes you’ll find blueprints in chests, which let you wear effect laden armor and equip quite a large variety of abilities to use within levels. Resources collected in levels unlock and refuel most of those abilities. The balance is spot on. It feels like you should plan your unlocks carefully, but it’s tuned to avoid having to grind too much (hah).
And that’s it. Grindstone is a simple, effective, and addictive mobile game that does just about everything right. I’ve been playing it for over a month, and there are no sign of it getting old. If you’re someone who rides a bus to work or otherwise has regular downtime, Grindstone should grab a place on your home screen.
**Played via Apple Arcade**
- Excellent art
- Satisfying gameplay loop
- Killer soundtrack
- Control is sketchy on AppleTV
- Not super diverse