The side-scrolling platforming genre of gaming has seen a massive resurgence over the last few years with a plethora of games ranking across the whole spectrum of quality. Pepper Grinder will likely end up somewhere in the middle for most players.

The game’s main travel mechanic is entertaining at first, but slowly the frenetic pace can become a bit stale the further players progress. Still, there are some aspects of the game that developer Ahr Ech created that are very entertaining, such as the boss fights, and most players will probably enjoy a title they can pick up and play without worrying about anything more than collecting gems and running through sometimes challenging levels as fast as possible.

Pepper Grinder starts innocently enough: Pepper, a treasure hunter with turquoise-colored hair is ship-wrecked on a nameless shore, her chest full of loot stolen immediately by an unknown villain. Upon finding a rather large-looking drill, the hero immediately seeks out their treasure. This is where the grinder part of Pepper Grinder becomes obvious. Pepper uses her newfound drill to go through dirt and some obstacles with greater ease, becoming the game’s core movement ability.

Pepper Grinder’s Traversal is Distinct

It has a few benefits, as it allows platforming through objects instead of relying on traversing above or below them, as well as allowing many objects to be hidden within the terrain waiting to be discovered. There is the standard jumping and walking too, but drilling becomes what everything else in the game revolves around. It struggles to feel fun at some points, though, as the drilling forces Pepper to be continuously moving, which causes a lot of strife when it comes to first attempts at passing a lot of the game’s obstacles. Some sections allow for a bit of reconnaissance, but most users won’t know what’s coming before they get to it. It removes any ability to plan for tough sections, forcing a trial-and-error approach some players will undoubtedly dislike. The drilling movement does feel different from most side-scrollers, though, so anyone looking for something a tad distinct will more than likely be a bit intrigued by Pepper Grinder‘s traversal method.

Any player not burnt out on pixel graphics will find a lot to like here, especially with many of the moving parts found within each stage. From animals to cannons, almost anything that moves is actually a delight to behold. Some enemies are almost boring in their design, but a lot of the game’s shifting pieces, such as enemies and obstacles, are entertaining and pleasing to the eye.

This is especially true with the game’s boss battles. These can be rough and tough affairs, but each boss has a unique look and attack pattern that isn’t too difficult to figure out, though some will still be efficient at killing Pepper if players aren’t careful. Their difficulties differ dramatically, but each has a clear path to victory that isn’t too hard to discover. These epic fights are great, but it’s a shame that Ahr Ech didn’t design more, since most of them work well within the game’s universe. The game’s backgrounds are a bit basic when compared to similar games, but they work not to draw attention away from the protagonist and still help create an atmosphere that compliments the foreground action. The story also shifts a bit as the player progresses, influencing the game’s tone somewhat, though it’s difficult to discuss it without heading directly into spoiler territory.

pepper grinder red beetle attacked first area underground

Where things get a bit wonky is in the level design, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with it. While playing, users may be reminded of a lot of other side-scrollers, including older titles like Yoshi’s Island, and even get whiffs of various Mega Man-level designs. It can be a weird nostalgic feeling for older players while traversing through the various biomes, especially for older players. This could also work in Pepper Grinder‘s favor, though, as fans of those older titles might enjoy the influences they catch out of the corner of their eye.

Level Design Teaches New Skills

The earlier levels are basic in their designs but pick up complexity the further users travel through the world. The game does a good job of building up player skills to tackle the more difficult and speedy sections required later on. There are some nifty choices when it comes to some of the objects players can traverse through in the various levels, like giant cooking pots and various creatures that don’t mind Pepper invading their personal space. These parts are very amusing, but players will find they’re spread too far apart. The games’ overworld maps might also feel familiar to fans of classics like Donkey Kong Country 2, as the style seems very reminiscent of the older SNES map designs and styles.

The controls on a PC are one of the rare situations where a lot of players may prefer a controller over the keyboard. The way Pepper constantly moves while drilling makes precise movements much more difficult on the default keyboard. It isn’t impossible by any stretch, but the starting difficulty goes way down when using a controller, so those with a spare controller may find themselves plugging it in early on. The game also doesn’t play well with some peripherals, like a Logitech driving wheel, so users should be ready to unplug any extra controls if they wish to use just the keyboard or a lone controller. This is even more obvious when picking up a few of the other tools Pepper gets to use, such as the gun. Players can’t shoot the weapon without moving at least a tiny bit, so precise controls are needed when balancing on the edge of objects to take down some foes.

pepper grinder lava level with gun

Though there aren’t many options, Pepper’s hair and clothing can be changed at shops found in the various biome sections. From turquoise hair to a more emo-like purple and black, there aren’t a ton of additions to look through, but they are easy to get by spending the coins and gems Pepper has obtained throughout her adventure. And despite not adding anything to the gameplay, the choices are a very welcome addition for anyone wishing to change details about the protagonist. There are other collectibles in the shop area’s gacha machines, but the personalization options for the heroine are where most users will beeline to. And with the overall experience running on the shorter side, depending on a player’s skill level, any extras are a satisfying bonus.

pepper grinder gacha area balls sales

Pepper Grinder does a good job of making players feel like their skills are progressing as they play through the game. It does sometimes feel like a grind, but there are enjoyable aspects to Pepper’s adventure that should be tried. The drilling as a travel tool is neat, and the boss monster’s designs and fights are entertaining, but the fun seems to fizzle out a little too quickly. Still, despite this and the game’s sometimes frustrating controls, Ahr Ech set out to create something a bit different. And while some aspects come up short, some players will find things worth drilling through to discover.

pepper grinder main character and logo

Pepper Grinder

Reviewed on PC

Pepper Grinder features fast-paced platforming action where the player drills through a variety of environments and enemies, using that momentum to cross chasms and traverse unique levels. 


  • Fun boss fights
  • Pretty pixel graphics
  • Good for quick gaming sessions

  • Level designs feel bland
  • Frustrating keyboard controls

Pepper Grinder is available now for PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.


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