The Disney versions of the Grimm fairy tales are pretty sanitized, but even back when Jacob and Wilhelm compiled the stories they did away with some of the more violent or racy content. The protagonist of this game, a crabby little dwarf named Grimm, believes this kind of censorship has ruined the tales and sets out to rectify the situation.
Grimm was originally released on the GameTap service back in 2008 with a total of 23 episodes spread across three seasons. The series is finally available on Steam and while you can still purchase individual episodes or seasons separately the complete pack offers much better value for money. Episodes are based around familiar fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, King Midas and Snow White and can be played in any order as they are all completely standalone.
Each episode opens with a puppet tale style retelling of a classic fairy tale. The narration is done by Grimm, who has a healthy disdain for the child friendly versions of the tales and he makes no effort to hide his contempt. You then take control of Grimm with the goal of transforming the sugar coated tales into something a little more disturbing.
Grimm is such an evil character that he leaves a trail of darkness in his wake and corrupts everything that he touches. A “Dark-O-Meter” displayed at the top of the screen shows just how odious Grimm is and the more of the world he corrupts the more the meter fills up. Grimm starts off as merely “Smelly” but can rank up through “Stinky,” “Gross” and “Foul” all the way to “Rancid” and “Vile.” Each level tasks you with reaching progressively higher milestones on the meter in order to continue.
Since Grimm only has to be near something to corrupt it you basically run around levels while watching the gameworld transform from something out of Disney to something out of Silent Hill around you. It is not just a shift in color from light to dark but a complete makeover. Buildings become crooked and dilapidated, plants wither and die, piles of leaves turn into piles of bones and everything is smeared with blood and misery. In later levels you can turn bright, sunny days with green pastures into apocalyptic visions of hell with rain, thunder, lightning and people running around on fire.
The gameplay is actually similar to the classic Katamari Damacy titles, but instead of rolling things into balls you are transforming environments with your mere presence. Obviously Grimm’s power of corruption is at its weakest when the Dark-O-Meter is empty, but as it fills up so does his sphere of corruption. Environmental hazards such as water and lava can kill Grimm, but since he merely respawns the only challenge comes from the non player characters running around the levels. These guys, girls and cute woodland animals will clean your corruption thus lowering your Dark-O-Meter so you have to hustle in order to thwart them. If the meter is filled sufficiently you can even corrupt them and kill them, but until then you can employ a butt stomp to stun them for a few seconds. Grimm can also jump and the steady stream of urine that he unleashes when standing still serves as the guiding marker for where he will land. The platforming sections in early episodes are quite easy, but later ones provide more of a challenge. There are power-ups that increase your speed or slow down time, but most of the time the game is easy enough that these are not really needed.
Each episode is split into six (although there are occasional ones with seven or even eight) areas with a “dark” version of the story shown upon completion. The areas are not that big and generally each episode can be completed in about 30 minutes. Completionists can aim for a gold medal on each area by completely converting everything to darkness or do a speed run and try to beat the clock. There are also one or two hidden tokens tucked away in each area and you are rewarded with a gallery if you manage to find them all. Considering the amount of episodes, it will take you quite a while to finish all the tales let alone aim for the extras.
Because the gameplay is so simple it unfortunately means that the game can become repetitive if you try and play through multiple episodes in one sitting. As long as you stick to one or two episodes a day this shouldn’t be a problem. Although the game was released in 2008 the Unreal Engine 3 powered visuals have held up surprisingly well. This is partly because of the focus on creativity instead of realism and because of the amount of imagination that went into the transformations. I was surprised to find that the game supports resolutions up to 2560×1600 although you have to adjust the resolution for each episode individually. Although it is presented in a cartoon-like fashion, there are some disturbing imagery such as dead children and loads of blood that might offend sensitive players, so you have been warned.
The audio is quite fitting with upbeat tracks that turn into more sinister tunes as you spread your corruption. The voice acting is also pretty good with Grimm sounding as evil and sarcastic as he looks. There is even a Mulan episode with Mandarin voice overs for all the characters instead of the usual English. I played the game using a controller and bar some occasions where Grimm got stuck temporarily on objects everything worked smoothly.
Grimm is quite an enjoyable title, especially if you are a fan of the classic tales from which it draws its inspiration. Everyone is bound to know most of the tales and seeing the “light” and “dark” versions are quite entertaining. It is not a game that you are going to be playing non-stop until you have finished every episode, but it makes for a nice diversion every once in a while. The first episode is available for free on Steam and it showcases exactly what you can expect from the rest so go ahead and try it for yourself.
*Review originally published 2014.
- OS: Windows Vista / XP / 7
- Processor: 2.4 GHz Single Core Pentium Processor
- Memory: 512 MB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia 6200+ or equivalent video card with 128MB Video RAM
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Storage: 600 MB available space
- OS: Windows Vista / XP / 7
- Processor: 2.0+ GHz Dual Core Processor or 3GHz Single Core
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA 7600+ or ATI x1300+ Video Card
- Storage: 600 MB available space