Grumpy Reaper – Wii U

Here’s an odd premise. You are a gardener who’s been coerced by the Grim Reaper in to cutting grass, collecting keys and once in a while, taking out some zombies. Because why not! I think that’s the story, anyways.

Grumpy Reaper is a maze-like arcade game whereby you’re tasked with cutting every chunk of oversized grass in a particular level. It’s not as simple as it sounds though because there are many, many things out there to stop you. It’s essentially Pacman, only with varying level layouts and a few extra mechanics.

While cutting all of the grass will allow you to complete a stage and move to the next one, there are two other goals that can be achieved. The first is the standard time trial whereby you need to finish all of the level within a certain (very strict, may I add) time frame. There’s also a goal for killing all of the enemies in the stage. At least I think it’s all of them, it’s not really made clear. Anyways, satisfying these requirements will earn you a key each, which means each level has three keys up for grabs.

What do keys do? Their most useful purpose is to upgrade your equipment and abilities. You can improve your health a couple of times, improve your fuel tank and even improve the power-ups.

Zombies, ghosts, bats and countless other things are wandering the unkempt lawns of this world. Despite being hand in hand with a grass cutter, you can’t do any damage to them until you unleash a charging attack after collecting enough fuel which is occasionally dropped after cutting grass. There are two levels of attack, depending on how much fuel you have. The first one can only run down zombies but the second and most powerful one can take out spawn points and other things.

Personally I think fuel drops are too few and far between, it seems like you never have enough for everything, which would be fine, but there are points when you really need some but it won’t give you any. One solution to this problem is using the aforementioned keys. You can let go of a few keys in exchange for some fuel in a desperate situation. In one level early on, I was encouraged to waste loads of my keys paying for fuel, couple that with playing stupidly and dying in places I shouldn’t have, it’s safe to say my key supply ran low very quickly. This was before I knew about upgrades and before I realised the precious nature of the keys.

Keys are a precious resource. You can only get them by completing levels and achieving the goals. If you need more keys to advance in the game, you need to go back to previous levels and grind them out, a horrible design choice. It’s really quite baffling. I’m not sure why they thought paying for extra fuel and life with keys was a good idea. Even more baffling is that you can collect coins in the levels by destroying enemies. I don’t even know what coins do. I’ve search the menus and everything, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what they’re for. Surely these would have been a better solution for buying extra fuel? It’s a strange situation that I can’t help but feel was originally intended for a mobile experience. i.e. microtransactions. I half expected a sign to pop up if I tried to recover health saying: “20 Keys just £1.99!”. As later levels become more difficult and less forgiving the problem becomes more noticeable.

Aside from just “cut all the grass” levels, there are a few variants thrown in to the mix once in a while. There are levels against the clock, where you must complete it within a very short time limit or you fail. There are survival levels where you run around trying to survive for a couple of minutes. My favourite are darkness levels where everything is almost pitch-black and you have to inch your way through the tight corridors avoiding the ghouls and zombies. They also look the best too.

While graphically it leaves something to be desired, I’m actually rather digging the artstyle. I like the cutesy-Tim Burton vibe going on. Miserable and cute. The worst part is the main character who, in spite of being one of the few living creatures in the game, is the most lifeless, boring thing of them all, at least compared to the countless enemies who have some character in them.

There are 40 levels in the game, which I think is a decent amount for your money. Unfortunately the game can become somewhat annoying at about the half way point, at least for me. There are just so many enemies and nuisances that stop it from being as enjoyable as it could be. One particular enemy is the worst offender. This enemy basically spawns behind you and follows your track for a while before disappearing again. The problem is that you often need to re-tread your steps, whether by design of the level or just trying to get somewhere safe, which often leads to you getting clobbered by this guy, an unnecessary pain.

Overall, Grumpy Reaper is not a bad game, just a flawed one; flaws that stop it short of reaching a decent enjoyable experience. It has its moments, for sure. The general idea behind the gameplay is good and I really like the artsyle, but it’s marred by a bizarre reliance on keys that may need to be grinded and some overwhelming enemies later on.

Good points

– Nice artstyle

– Varied missions and goals

Bad points

– Grinding for keys so you can buy fuel?

– Super annoying enemies after the half way point

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