Pepper Grinder review: running drills

Pepper Grinder is a satisfying momentum-based platformer
Devolver Digital

When a game is centered around satisfying movement mechanics, I could easily play it for hours on end. Whether it’s designed to be fast and smooth like Phantom Abyss or slow and challenging like Celeste, if I can feel a highly refined sense of control, it’ll hook me.

This is where Pepper Grinder sings. Your little character carries around a massive drill twice the size of their body and, aside from using it to turn enemies inside-out, you use it to effortlessly glide through the underground terrain in this momentum-based platforming adventure. What’s more, entering and exiting patches of ground gives you boosts to momentum depending on your angle and speed, letting you easily build up some very satisfying paths as you crisscross, dive, and arc through the levels.

That central mechanic is all that’s needed to carry the entire game, as each new level adds variants and challenges to this idea. You’ll start dealing with water instead of ground to mix up the physics, you’ll pick up a grappling hook to slowly climb higher each time you exit the terrain, and sometimes the game will just place a load of bombs in the way to see how you deal with it.

Pepper Grinder drilling under some lava
Pepper Grinder sees you drilling through all sorts of dangerous terrain. / Devolver Digital

The only levels that don’t live up to the rest of the game are the boss fights. All of them are pretty basic in terms of attack patterns and opportunities to strike, making them all fairly easy. Despite this, their health bars are weirdly long, meaning I spent far too long going through the same motions over and over without much challenge. The final boss is the exception to this, but one out of four is a poor inning.

This raises the other big problem, the game is disappointingly short. With just four worlds consisting of four to five main levels each, you’ll easily be done in around two hours. There are reasons to replay like collectibles that unlock extra challenge stages – as well as a classic time-trial mode – but even these aren’t quite difficult enough to warrant going out of your way.

Drilling around massive spikeballs in Pepper Grinder
Your quick-wits will be essential to victory in Pepper Grinder / Devolver Digital

I would’ve preferred the main game to be more challenging to make up for there being so few levels. Celeste is once again a great example of this, it had just eight levels in the main story, but they’re so difficult that most people would take ages to beat each one. I understand that Pepper Grinder’s faster and lighter movement doesn’t lend itself to Celeste’s levels of difficulty, but I still think more could’ve been done to ramp up the challenge factor in the main levels.

Still, many would say that leaving your audience wanting more is a good thing, and that’s exactly what I came away from Pepper Grinder thinking. Even if it’s a little lacking in quantity, the quality of what’s there is fantastic. Momentum-based platformers need to be smooth and effortless to control – something that’s not easily done – but Pepper Grinder does it masterfully.

Score: 7/10

Version Tested: PC (Steam)

Ryan Woodrow


Ryan Woodrow is Guides Editor for GLHF based in London, England. He has a particular love for JRPGs and the stories they tell. His all-time favorite JRPGs are the Xenoblade Chronicles games because of the highly emotive and philosophy-driven stories that hold great meaning. Other JRPGs he loves in the genre are Persona 5 Royal, Octopath Traveler, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Nier Automata, and Pokémon. He also regularly dives deep into the indie scene trying to find hidden gems and innovative ideas. Some of his favorite indie games include FTL: Faster Than Light, Thomas Was Alone, Moonlighter, Phantom Abyss, and Towerfall Ascension. More of his favorite games are Minecraft, Super Mario Odyssey, Stardew Valley, Skyrim, and XCOM 2. He has a first-class degree in Games Studies from Staffordshire University and has written for several sites such as USA Today's ForTheWin, Game Rant, The Sun, and KeenGamer. Email: