Pepper Grinder Review

Pepper Grinder Drill Dozer Devolver

No, this is not a drill (get it?). Pepper Grinder is finally out. If you are like me and didn’t allow this game to leave the back of your mind ever since it was initially shown, then you won’t be disappointed in this review.

Initially revealed in 2017, Pepper Grinder is a 2D platformer in which the player can burrow their way through levels with a hand drill. For the longest time, it felt like one of those game concepts that struggled to find a full release, but thankfully, Pepper Grinder seems to have found its footing around 2022, when Devolver Digital stepped in as its publisher.

Going back to Pepper Grinder‘s reveal trailer, it’s pretty interesting to see just how the game’s design philosophy has shifted, which is directly felt when experiencing its level design. The early looks we got at the game don’t paint a radically different picture, but they do show a somewhat slower and more puzzle-oriented game, which is not what Pepper Grinder is now.

Pepper Grinder
Developer: Ahr Ech, MP2 Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 28, 2024
Players: 1
Price: $14.99

Pepper Grinder is a gameplay-first title, featuring roughly 30 seconds of story content. Your character wakes up on a beach alongside their treasure and then gets robbed by local pirates. That one initial cutscene serves not only the game’s setup but also pretty much its entire plot, which is par for the course with this kind of game.

It makes sense that Pepper Grinder wouldn’t waste its time telling a story, and that’s because it’s more preoccupied with going fast. The game is fully based on movement, letting the player swiftly glide through levels like a speeding bullet, and if played correctly, a lot of stages can be cleared in almost one fell swoop, feeling like 2-3 minute trips of pure kinetic energy.

There’s something really satisfying about the way that the main character can weave in between patches of dirt and how timing your boosts correctly lets you chain through platforms at mach speed. This game can only be described as catnip for speedrunners, and I’m sure that the community built around it has gotten quite good at clearing levels in record time.

Pepper Grinder is divided into four worlds, and each one of them introduces a new set of mechanics. These mechanics usually don’t dominate the levels that they are in, instead always playing a secondary role to the core gameplay experience, which is to go incredibly fast by drilling through the ground.

The developer seems to have put a lot of care into making sure the level mechanics aren’t introduced in a way that feels overwhelming or leads to game bloat, as they are always very straightforward and self-explanatory.

It’s truly special when a game has so much confidence in its design that it doesn’t even bother with tutorializing the player, and thankfully, this confidence is not unfounded. It only takes a second of interacting with any of the game’s mechanics to understand how they work, making it so the player is always moving, even when new things are being thrown at them.

Pepper Grinder‘s soundtrack is mostly composed of ambient music, and the tracks can feel a little muted at times, even bordering on bland if we’re being honest. None of the tracks are bad by any means, but they are just “there,” not adding much to the experience.

And while we are going through minor nitpicks, there is one mechanic that isn’t exactly as tight as it should be, which are the grappling hooks. The direction that you shoot out when mounting them feels random a lot of the time, and the character is prone to spinning backwards on them despite grappling from the correct side.

It’s a minor blemish on an otherwise airtight gameplay system, but it is there, and its flaws are definitely felt. Thankfully, the developer has been addressing a lot of feedback since release, so there’s a good chance this mechanic will be made less unpredictable in the future.

Pepper Grinder clocks in at around four hours or so, but that playtime almost triples when considering the game’s time attack challenges and collectibles, which will have you replaying stages over and over until you find the most optimal route.

Pepper Grinder features what I believe to be the best type of time attack challenges, which are the ones that require you to do the level correctly and in one solid run, but not necessarily frame-perfect like only a speedrunner could. You will definitely have to replay levels a lot to better your time and let muscle memory take over, but the requirements aren’t impossibly tight.

Going through a level regularly and then piecing together just how many movement options you can chain to later blast through it in the time attack mode is a very rewarding experience that feels quite reminiscent of Neon White, another movement-based title with a similar approach to its timed challenges.

Pepper Grinder serves as yet another golden trophy on Devolver’s ever-growing shelf of published titles. It was difficult to believe that they could put out another movement-based indie game on the same level as Gunbrella, but they keep surprising us.

If you enjoy timed challenges, kinetic movement, and games that do their best to polish and refine a single mechanic into perfection, then you will absolutely love Pepper Grinder. Anyone looking for something short to play on their Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck will also have a blast with this one.

Pepper Grinder was reviewed on Microsoft Windows using a game code provided by Devolver Digital. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Pepper Grinder is available on Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows (through Steam). PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S ports are set to release on August 6, 2024.

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The Verdict: 8.5

The Good

  • Pepper Grinder's gameplay and level design are airtight, and make for a really fun experience
  • The time attack challenges add a lot of replayability to the game, and are generally fun to beat
  • The developer has been tweaking the game frequently and addressing player feedback

The Bad

  • The game's soundtrack doesn't accentuate the experience in any way
  • The grappling hook is the game's only inconsistent mechanic, which will hopefully be patched in the future


Fan of skeletons, plays too many video games, MMO addict, soul-like and character action enthusiast.

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