GRIME: Colors of Rot promises to be a very entertaining prospect. Coming from developers Clover Bite and published by Akupara Games, this is a melange of genres. Nothing unusual there, I hear you think to yourself, however, when the games that are going into the blend are top tier titles like Hollow Knight and Dark Souls, the stakes do get raised a tiny bit.
GRIME first released on Steam back in 2021, and the Colors of Rot of the title is a DLC pack, so what we have here is, in effect, a kind of complete edition of the game.
Now, like all the best games in the Dark Souls tradition, there is a story, but you need to work at it to find out what is going on. As GRIME: Colors of Rot’s blurb has it, “An unusual material collapses in on itself, the world shudders and contracts, and suddenly you are squeezed into existence”. Not much of a back story, is it? Still, we are a somewhat well defined creature, with what appears to be a black hole for a head, so we’ll take what we can get! Yet now that we are in the world, it is down to us to try and not only survive it, but traverse and make our escape.
One of the big things about these Dark Souls type games is the difficulty, but equally one of the other things they all have in common is that they are 3D worlds. GRIME is a little different, and it is here that the comparisons with Hollow Knight come in, as this is a firmly fixed 2D affair.
The graphics on display do a great job of showing you what is going on, with a very nice “end of the world” vibe going on. While the world is in ruins and the creatures that you meet are twisted and a bit funny looking, the design and care that has gone into the visuals is evident from the moment you spawn in. The backdrops look great, ranging from a desert where the sky appears to be falling in, right through to narrow, claustrophobic corridors where baddies can hide behind every stone. The animation is nicely done as well, and the way our avatar changes as we find new gear and weapons is extremely well handled.
In terms of audio and it must be said that there aren’t many friendly creatures to be found in GRIME, but their interesting speech does sound endearing. Other than that, it is the sound of weapons on stone, a little light jumping, and various and sundry monsters roaring as they attack and/or die. There is some music too, but it is understated and fits into the narrative of a world holding its breath really well.
So, what about the actual gameplay, what is that like? Well, it is pretty much an action RPG with some exploring elements. I wouldn’t, however, say that it is a Metroidvania styled game, as there isn’t a mechanic that requires us to unlock new skills to progress, as such. At least not unless you count a bigger sword and more strength as an essential skill; which in this game isn’t too far from the truth.
As we begin, the map of the world is very small, and as we explore, it is fleshed out to show us the scale of what we have to deal with. In fact, the fraction of the map that we can see is brought home to us after we beat the first boss, where we are told to head to a Palace, and the map shows us where it is in relation to us. You’ll soon wish you had an electric scooter, lets put it that way.
Of course, all this exploring is going to bring us to the attention of the inhabitants of this world, and for a bunch of beings who appear to be made of stone, some of them can certainly shift. It is here where another new mechanic is brought in, and it involves our black hole head. You see, with timing, a swift press of the RB button will not only block damage from a foe, but if they are weak enough, we can absorb them entirely.
This may sound like a neat trick for avoiding being hurt, but it is better than that. See, when we reach the altar type things that are this game’s bonfires (if you get what I mean) then we can actually learn new abilities from absorbed foes. From some we can learn skills that make us stronger, others give us parry attacks that injure the foes, and so on and so forth.
In addition, as you’d expect, there is a skill tree to level up, using Mass, the consumable we get from defeating foes. The skill tree is interesting, as there are only a few options, and so you can choose which path to go down – all health and stamina, or pour points into strength based weapons? Do you want a dextrous build instead? Whichever way you go, it is a nicely thought out system that lets you craft your character your way, matching weapons and armour you find to your chosen style.
Actual combat is a lot of fun, and does bear more than a passing resemblance to Hollow Knight. Here though there is less reliance on acrobatics and more on split second dodging and parrying, and even absorbing attacks have a place in boss fights, as it is usually possible to temporarily remove bits of the boss by absorbing them, leaving them open to a damn good thrashing.
The combat is hard but fair, except for the monsters that hide in narrow corridors. These corridors are actually invisible until you trip over them, and so it is usually a lovely surprise when you wander up, a wall suddenly vanishes, and a foe rushes out; generally when you are on your last sliver of health as well. Still, part of the fun of these games is learning from mistakes, and as long as you don’t keep making the same one, what does kill you, will make you stronger!
GRIME: Colors of Rot is a pleasure to play. If you want a challenge, this is the game for you, particularly as the world is extremely well realised and will happily draw you in.
GRIME: Colors of Rot is on the Xbox Store