IGN Review of American McGee's Grimm Episode 03
One day on a summer morning I went fishing at the local pier. That day I only caught one fish, but it was a very special one. As soon as I reeled the sucker in, the fish started talking to me! He asked me to let him go, and in return he said he would grant my wildest wishes. This might sound like crazy talk, or it might sound like the premise to The Fisherman and His Wife, the Brothers Grimm story that inspired the third episode of American McGee's Grimm. Is this episode good enough to reel you in? Maybe not, but at least it's made some improvements. Overall the game is plagued with many of the same problems as its predecessor, but like a school of fish, this episode is headed in the right direction.
After a somewhat mildly entertaining, but slightly long-winded cinematic, players are tossed into a cheery beach level that looks like something out of Kingdom Hearts or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Once again, you take control of the putrid Grimm. Your task, as usual, is to run around the lands and pollute the area with your stinky darkness. You do so with the WASD movement keys and the mouse to change directions.
As the fairytale goes, you will encounter a fisherman that catches a talking fish. As the fish pleas for his life, the fisherman's kindness takes over and he releases the magical creature. The fish then reciprocates the sentiment by granting him any wish he desires. When the Fisherman's wife learns about this, she abuses the gift and becomes obsessed with greed. This ultimately leads to the couple's downfall. While the story is interesting, the way the episode presents it to you is not. Essentially you get a prologue and epilogue cinematic, and that's pretty much it. Sure there are some small cut-scenes spliced in between missions, but the story always feels more passive than active. Meaning, you don't feel like you're interacting with the narrative. Non-playable characters don't really acknowledge your existence, and there are no dialogue options to speak of (or with). For a supposedly story-driven series, this aspect feels a little dated.
One area in which this episode has noticeably stepped up in is the gameplay. The first episode in the series, A Boy Learns What Fear Is, was plagued with predominantly flat terrain, which was boring to tread over, and all you did is tread. Luckily, the levels in this episode are more multidimensional and vertically layered. Floating platforms and moving boats are all welcome additions. Like I've said in the past, this is the direction the series needs to push for.
With more platforming comes more challenge, which is welcome since the two previous episodes were so easy they became disengaging. One level tosses players into the middle of a big whirlwind filled with floating boxes to jump across. While jumping from box to box seems easy enough, the wind will affect your landing. The level is arguably the first real challenge in the series, but that's not saying much. The game is still relatively easy. Once again, all you have to do to beat a mission is to cover enough ground until the game lets you "buttstomp" a specified spot in the level by tapping the jump button twice. The biggest problem is that your Dark-O-Meter, which tells you how stinky you are, is too easily satiated. This does not present gamers with any sort of challenge. Imagine playing hide-and-go-seek, where four of your friends are hiding. To win, you only have to find two of them, and you know they are both hiding behind the door. That's pretty much the gameplay to Grimm. The majority of the gameplay becomes nothing more than a formality. While you can up your score by treading more land, most gamers are going to only go for the bare minimum. In my opinion the Dark-O-Meter should expect more from you. In addition, certain areas should be hidden or harder to get to.
It also isn't very challenging when there is no consequence to death. The only way you can die is to fall into the water, and then you are resurrected in a nearby spot. You come back to life unscathed and your Dark-O-Meter suffers no penalty. While this isn't a huge issue, I've committed suicide many times to exploit the system. Is there a floating boat out at sea that you are too impatient to wait for? Jump out at it. You'll die, but your damage will be done. Another thing that allows you to do damage are pick-ups, or rather pick-up. A speedy lighting bolt item, that last for roughly 10 seconds, has been added so that speed freaks can capture as much land in the least amount of time possible. This item isn't needed to beat the level, but it's an interesting addition. Hopefully we'll see zanier items in future installments.
What still remains zany is the art direction. It still has that cute, cartoony look, with a dash of Tim Burtonesque darkness to it. As you walk across concrete, it becomes stained with blood. If you raise your Dark-O-Meter up enough, you can turn enemies into the undead and crush them into a bloody pulp with your butt. The cinematics are also filled with bloody good action.
While the game is still pretty dark, the music is childlike and features a curious, yet tropical jingle for the beach levels. As you progress through the game you will come across a mystical score with a slight hint of darkness to it. The sound effects remain consistently solid for a cartoony and over the top game; while the voice work remains extremely silly and goes well with the ridiculous dialogue. And I'm 99-percent sure that the Wife's voice is played by a man.
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