This is the first game I have ever seen or played from publisher Akaei, so I was very interested in seeing what it was like. You could say this is the basis on whether I think their games are good or not, I actually see it as an opportunity to play even more games than I normally do :]
The story of Grouch is this, you're a big, strong caveman and some woman visits you one day and starts making eyes at you, you think she's hot and you start to flirt, etc. Meanwhile a gang of trolls, goblins, skeletons and whatever, spot you and her and subsequently she is kidnapped from right under your nose. You grab your trusty sword and charge on after them, as cavemen apparently do!
The game starts you off simply, you have your sword and make off after the hot woman battling trolls, trees, warriors and a host of other enemies while ultimately trying to get your bird back. The game is very reminiscent of Severance: Blade of Darkness from Codemasters. The view is the same, from behind your character, you can pull off various attacking moves with your weapon and also manage to chop your enemies into teeny weenie bits in the process of killing them.
The enemies are actually a bugger to kill, it takes numerous hits from whatever weapon you are using and even chopping off their legs and arms will not stop them attacking you. When you do this they seem to slither about like worms trying to headbutt your feet in a constant attempt to kill you.
Enemies are not the only problem you have to deal with, the landscape you have to go through is strewn with pits and water, which oddly kills you right away, plus the numerous traps and other creatures you need to get past to progress.
Puzzles are also evident in the game, most of the important places, marked by the level continue markers are behind gates, which must be raised before you can activate them. This presents a quick but usually easy puzzle on how to open the gate and often than not involves kicking a lever or two.
To help you in your quest for the woman of your dreams you can perform numerous moves, all intent on killing any enemies that dare stand in your way. These moves are performed by pressing one of the direction buttons and the attack button, if successful you can perform moves such as over head attacks, slice attacks and even a spinning attack. Combine this with the weapons you can pickup along the way, your attacks get stronger and more successful, meaning you can take on the ever increasing enemies that get harder and harder as you progress.
The games graphics are reasonably good, they wont win any special awards but serve the purpose they need to, lighting effects caused by fires dotted around light the levels up nicely and the enemies are all animated appropriately with the various moves distinctive and very impressive. The game does take on a cartoony feel and has many nice touches such as the ability to stamp on your enemies bodies or kick about parts you have chopped off. Background graphics are also good, with huts, trees, chasms and walls making a regular appearance to make the levels look less empty.
The game is really a huge 3D platformer, all the levels are laid out well and it is very hard to lose track of where you are and which way you should be going. The levels also incorporate moving platforms and the like, all of which reminds me of the old 2D platformers I used to play as a kid.
The games sounds are one of its strong points, each enemy has its own unique sounds and each of the various traps and levels all sound unique so you know when something has happened or that something nasty is coming up. The in-game music is also great, it's a kind of combination of a 'hurry up' tune crossed with something you would not find out of place in a cartoon. I didn't find the music annoying in the least and since the levels were not too long it didn't get on my nerves too much.
The worst part of the game is a huge problem and one that I am sad to point out after such a great review. This is the age-old problem of saving the game, one that I stand by with many other people, most of them are PC gamesplayers and it goes like this. Games should have the 'save the game anywhere' feature, especially if it is a PC game. This problem is the bane of the game, I cant count the number of times I have died just to start the game way back on a level just because I fell in water or happened to get killed by some whirring blades. It is a point that many people will undoubtedly agree on and one that is this games only real fault. Saves are allowed only after completing a level by which time you may have broken 2 keyboards and 3 mice because you threw them across the room`.
To sum up, Grouch is a game I really liked, I am not sure what it was that grabbed me but as soon as I started playing I was kinda hooked, the savegame problem is the only real down point. It is quite hard and is not, in my opinion, very suited to youngsters, as it does get very tricky early on. Try it, you may like it!