If you’re looking for a great new Switch game, you’ll dig Pepper Grinder

A giant beetle stands in Pepper Grinder.
Devolver Digital

Look, it’s been a busy time for video game enthusiasts. Rather than easing out of a busy holiday season, the first three months of 2024 have been filled with enormous, high-profile RPGs that can eat up an upwards of 60 hours each. I’m tired. You’re tired. Don’t you just want to play something short and sweet at this point?

If the answer to that question is “yes,” then you’re in luck. Pepper Grinder, the latest release from publisher Devolver Digital, is out today and it’s the perfect change of pace for anyone exhausted from playing long RPGs for months. And it helps that it’s a fun little platformer with a unique hook, too. Actually, “hook” isn’t exactly the right word here. I should say “drill.”

Pepper Grinder is a 2D platformer with an easy to understand premise. Players control a character wielding a drill who can use it to burrow through patches of Earth. Each colorfully pixelated level is made up of a mix of platforms and dirt clods. Players need to jump and drill their way through levels, combining those basic techniques to snag hidden collectibles and avoid obstacles.

After months of breaking down complex RPG systems for readers, it’s refreshing that I could stop typing there and you’d know exactly what Pepper Grinder is.

A character drills through dirt in Pepper Grinder.
Devolver Digital

The platformer nails the fundamentals of the genre while adding its own spin to it. Drilling into a patch of dirt and snaking around inside of it to grab jewels is as satisfying as it needs to be. Movement is smooth and mostly easy to control. Late game levels can get a bit more frustrating when players need to use momentum to launch between dirt clods or chain into swings off of grappling points, but developer Ahr Ech uses some smart restraint here so as not to push the idea too far and instead creates moments of punishing precision.

Rather than ratcheting up the challenge, Pepper Grinder instead focuses on creative ways it can twist its core gimmick. In one level, I jump down on a monster driving a car and shove my drill into the steering wheel to control it throughout a high-speed chase. Another standout has me using it to hack an enormous mecha that smashes through the levels. There’s just enough variety here to keep the sleek four-hour campaign surprising.

A character fires a chaingun in Pepper Grinder.
Devolver Digital

For those who want a little more out of it, each level can be played as a time attack — something that feels custom-made for speedrunners. There are lots of collectibles to grab too, including stickers that can be used in a scrapbook photo mode. Those are nice extras, but Pepper Grinder doesn’t really need them. The appeal here is that you’re getting a tight platformer that’s fun to play without overstaying its welcome. It’s no surprise that Devolver Digital decided to publish the project; it fits right in next to elegant oddities like Ape Out, Boomerang X, and Disk Room.

If you go into Pepper Grinder with the right expectations, it’ll be hard to come out disappointed. It’s the kind of small-scale delight that the video game industry was founded on. Grab it on Nintendo Switch (or Steam Deck), curl up on your couch with it one evening, and dig in.

Pepper Grinder is now available on Nintendo Switch and PC.

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