Reviewed: July 31, 2008
Released: July 31, 2008
“Happily Ever After”, we’ve all heard these words before as a kid growing up in fairy tales told to us by our parents. We’ve all heard the classic sugarcoated tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots and The Fisherman and His Wife. But what if those stories weren’t so sweet and innocent and filled with morals as we know them.
Enter American McGee, from such titles as Alice and Scrapland, with his newest endeavor “Grimm” on the GameTap network for the PC. Grimm is the industry’s first episodic weekly game series that starts with the release of “A Boy Learns What Fear Is,” the first of 24 episodes to come our way every week.
You get to play as Grimm in his quest to turn every sugar-coated fairy tale into dark twisted versions of themselves. “A Boy Learns What Fear Is,” is his first target and some romping, stomping good mayhem is sure to follow.
I will admit that I am a big fan of American McGee’s works ever since I played Alice for the first time. Alice still remains in my top favorites for PC games, due to the dark and twisted nature of the title. So when I heard that American McGee was doing his take on the Grimm Tales, I was rather ecstatic with anticipation. Now having played the first episode, which is permanently free to play, all I can say is that no one other than McGee could have pulled this off.
“A Boy Learns What Fear Is” has an evilly straightforward interface. Across the top of the screen is Grimm’s evil meter. The evil meter shows you how much dark power you have gathered and you will need a certain amount to clear each stage.
Everywhere Grimm walks the area around him changes to the dark version of that place. However in each stage there are cleaners that will constantly try to impede Grimm from reaching his goal.
The cleaners can temporarily stunned by butt stomping the ground around them. This will give some time to fix what they have undone and progress out of your current area.
Making your way around each scene is fairly easy and done with just the mouse or keyboard or both. Moving Grimm is done by simply pressing the WASD keys or by holding down the Left mouse button and guiding him by aiming with the mouse. Jumping can be achieved by pressing the Right mouse button or Space Bar.
Pulling Grimm’s signature butt stomp, which is used to progress after making a certain area dark enough, is done by pressing down twice on the Space Bar or clicking twice on the Right mouse button. The controls can be picked up instantly allowing more time for mischievous mayhem.
One of my favorite things to do after taking over a area is to squish the darkened cleaners. It puts the little do-gooders in their place and the effect is cool. The other thing I like to do is try and find the various hidden tokens that are spread out around each scene. Some require going off the beaten trail a bit but it’s fun.
I have to say that I am pleased with the camera angles for those of you wondering about them. The camera follows Grimm wherever he goes so there is no worry about not being able to see him while trying to jump across various platforms. There are a couple of times where you must travel from platform to platform that is surrounded by lava so it’s nice to see where you are going, unlike some platformers I’ve played.
The difficulty of “A Boy Learns What Fear Is” is fairly easy as the episode is meant to be completed in about 30 minutes. However there are a few obstacles that may take you a few tries to get past. I soon found out that lava and water are instant deaths for Grimm. Though falling into lava will not result in game over. You just start right back from where you were before you fell in.
Graphically, American McGee’s Grimm looks amazing. The environments and characters are all done in cel shade, which allows for the smooth transitions between the pretty landscapes and the wicked ruins they become at your hands.
The level of detail that went into creating each character and stage is just amazing. It has to be tricky enough to create one complete world for this story, but creating the story’s polar opposite in looks is something else entirely.
For those of us that remember playing Alice back in 2000. American McGee took the story that we all knew and loves and turned it on it head. The Wonderland we knew was turned into a dark and truly frightening place to be. The same magic he used in Alice has been brought over to the Grimm episodes.
One of the things I like the most about “A Boy Learns What Fear Is” is that while corrupting a story that I grew with I still have to stop and look at the destruction that I have created. Seeing a normal chicken turned into a diseased version of its self to say the least awesome. The same can be said about transforming a large building and fountains into a foundry and molten lava is about as wickedly cool as things can get.
The sound department of “A Boy Learns What Fear Is” is pretty good and the voice actors are better than I hoped. The intro song that Grimm sings at the beginning of the episode is awesome in my book. The background music was also very good. The intro song minus the words plays in the background as you are fouling up the place.
Before you actually play the episode, Grimm will tell you the tale in question the way we all know it. The voice actor that does Grimm’s voice is perfect for the role. They pull of a rather convincing evil person or whatever Grimm is.
It’s rather interesting to listen as the villagers are randomly set on fire and run around screaming at the top of their lungs as you are running around causing mayhem. The sound of blood splattering in this title is also wicked cool.
This first installment of American McGee’s Grimm will surely gain the attention of long time McGee fans and new ones alike. Value-wise this is a title that I will play over and over again as it is so much fun. “A Boy Learns What Fear is” contains a total of six scenes to traverse through.
While you are playing this title you will also get to find hidden secrets that are scattered around the scenes. Finding them is a nice little challenge to compliment the gameplay and to keep people coming back for more.
This episode and all the rest to follow are all short enough to be played with 30 minutes. The best part of this series is that the first episode, regardless whether or not you play the others, is absolutely FREE to play.
I haven’t had this much fun with a platform title since well...Alice. That’s probably due to my avid enjoyment of the Grimm tales and of all things macabre and twisted. While this title is all in good fun it may not be suitable for some audiences, namely children.
I do however encourage that anyone that is an Alice fan to give American McGee’s Grimm a try. I doubt you will regret it. And the best part is, as I’ve mentioned above, it’s absolutely FREE. As an evil little man once said “Happily Ever After Ends Now!”