Grappling hooks and dogs. Has there ever been a more satisfying combination in the history of gaming? Let alone mankind? Probably! Although, what I really admire about Grapple Dog is how it combines several iconic elements of legacy platformers like Super Mario, Sonic and Donkey Kong whilst adding in just enough creative flair to stand on its own four paws. Sorry, that pun was too hard to resist there…
A New Twist For 2D Platformers
In all seriousness, Grapple Dog is a relatively straightforward 2D platformer. You know the drill; run from one side of the stage to the other and collect all the thingamajigs along the way. Rinse and repeat. However, the grappling hook is what makes this game so much fun to play. Similar to how Halo Infinite’s Grappleshot made for such quirky entertainment, the grappling hook here has much the same effect.
It can’t latch on to all surfaces, although the grappling hook is very easy to use. Since it can only be aimed in three directions above our doggo friend, Pablo, it’s a breeze to zip across parts of the stage. Sooner or later, players will be swinging across chasms, linking one shot into another, all the while adjusting the chain length to add extra momentum into jumps for the trickier platforming sections. It all feels mighty smooth. And yes, it gets hectic later on. Prepare thy pooch.
For the normal jumping controls, however, I felt like they slightly missed the mark. Not to say they’re bad or anything at all, they work almost exactly as they should. The only issue I had was with some of the enemy encounters, where you’d have to jump within the confines of a small platform to land a knockout bonk on their heads. The thing is, every time Pablo leaps to the left or right, it pushes him a bit too far for these sections which can cause the player to tumble off the side of a platform. You can, of course, use a ground-pound to fall straight down, although it doesn’t always solve the issue. It may sound like I’m trying to nitpick here, but this one jumping mechanic will definitely start to grind your gears over time. Oh, and a designated run button would’ve been nice too. Just saying.
Grapple Dog’s Inspired Presentation
The overall level design, on the other hand, is where this game truly shines. The aesthetic hearkens back to the Yoshi’s Island series, which is very easy on the eyes and lets the player see exactly what’s happening on screen. Well, except for when it doesn’t… Sometimes, you’ll just take damage without any indication whatsoever. These occasions are usually once in a blue moon, thank goodness. Most levels however are full of tight jumping sections and hazards that require a quick reflex or two. With the game adding in more and more platforming mechanisms that’ll really push the player to master the controls. There are also bonus stages that can be unlocked within each level. Fun little ‘race to the finish!’ or ‘collect all the gems!’ sequences help to keep the platforming fresh.
The boss fights are pretty fierce too, with different types of encounters inspired by old school platformers. The first one was like taking candy from a baby, but as the game goes on, you might just be the one who ends up crying. They are quality showdowns nevertheless. That being said, if you are finding it a little too difficult, there are toggles for no damage and an infinite moon jump function. The infinite jump is worth trying out for a laugh though, even if you don’t exactly need it.
When it comes to the story, it’s your typical save the world plot with not much else going on. Yawn. However, I honestly loved the character interactions. There’s a couple of cheeky one-liners and silly jabs from the cast that’ll tickle your funny bone every once in a while, which is always a positive. The music also has a funky bounce and bop to it, but there’s just not enough variety. As much as I like the soundtrack; if I have to hear the exact same minute-long loop for six levels in a row, I’m gonna scream, loudly.
Considering the extremely low cost of entry and the amount of quality content this game has, put Grapple Dog directly into your shopping cart. This title has all the platforming goodness you could ask for in a 2D sidescroller, and the grappling hook gameplay will no doubt sink its teeth into you, pun intended. The jump mechanic can be a little finicky at times and a few of the presentation elements can definitely become grating after a while. But as a whole, Grapple Dog is still a tonne of fun to play. Any platforming fan, new or old will find a lot to like here.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Grapple Dog combines some fantastic 2D platforming with an awesome grappling hook mechanic that’s a cinch to pick up n’ play. While there are a few issues here and there, Grapple Dog’s simple gameplay formula will keep you coming back for more and more.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Super Rare Games. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.