I have a “love/hate” relationship with famous video game designer American McGee. For the few people that might not know who this guy is, he is the mind behind Alice and Alice: Madness Returns. He has done other games, but those are the two games he is most well known for. I love those games for their atmosphere and creative art styles, but the games themselves are not very fun to play. Well, as action games they are okay, but when you have games like Bayonetta and God of War 3 defining what action games should feel, look, and play like, the Alice games are lacking in a lot of what makes action games satisfying and enjoyable to play through. I can see why people love his games, but I never got on the same ride and found out why people respect him. Not to say that his games are bad, because they aren’t, but I always found him to be a more flash-over-substance kind of guy. Those ideals can also be seen in his 2008 episodic experience, American McGee’s Grimm. This was a three-season, weekly episodic game released on GameTap’s website from 2008 to 2009. I always remember seeing the commercials for the game, but I never got interested until recently, when they were all on sale in one nice cheap package on GoG.com. Let’s dive into the grim fairy tales and see what this game is all about.
The basic idea of the game is that the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have gotten too nice and politically correct. Well, politically correct to an extent, since some of these are still dark stories. You play as a grumpy, disgusting, and sadistic character known as Grimm. It is your job to go through multiple stories, corrupting everything in sight, and returning the stories to their original, and for a lack of a better word, grim glory. There is really no story, and the outcome is always the same. However, the writing is usually pretty funny, and Grimm is a fun character.
American McGee’s Grimm is a 3D platformer where you will go through different fairy tale stories like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Fisherman and his Wife,” and you get the idea. What you do in each level is walk around, fill a meter by corrupting the surrounding area with said walking motion, and once you reach a certain point, do a butt stomp to progress to the next part of the level. The only real challenge that gets in your way are critters and guards who walk around “cleaning” everything. Once you reach a certain area of the meter, you can then corrupt the guards and critters to your will, and make them evil. You do this basically through every single level. There are power-ups that make your butt stomp hit a wider range and make you run faster. You also have secret coins hidden throughout the level, and a ranking system depending on how fast you finish the level. There really isn’t a lot of variety within the gameplay, and the only real differences between the levels are the stories that you are playing through.
The graphics are the best part of the game. It kind of reminds me of if Broken Age went 3D. It has a children’s book art style look, and it’s one of the more unique looking games out there. The music has a quirky dark tone and it fits the overall vibe of the game. The voice work is top notch, and the actor who plays Grimm is hilarious, and is another high point for the game.
So, what is wrong with these dark fairy tales? The game is incredibly repetitive. There is no variety to the overall game besides the levels. You don’t fight any actual enemies and bosses, no other powers, and no other kinds of gameplay variation. It feels like, once again, American McGee and his developer, Spicy Horse just took the idea, but didn’t expand on it in any way. This seems like a huge misstep, because they could have gotten very creative with the fairy tales you play through.
So, there you have it, American McGee’s Grimm for the PC. While it does have its charm and a lot of the personality you would find in games made by McGee, it is still just above average. I feel like if they could have added more gameplay mechanics and put a lot more variety in the game, they could have had one of the best episodic experiences around. Steam and GoG.com both have the entire series, so if you see the series for cheap, I would highly recommend you pick them up with the knowledge that this game is better to play in short bursts. Now then, we are done with the second game in this special, how about we move on to our finale with one of my favorite games on the original Xbox?
This game gets a 6 out of 10.