If one were to take the time and read some of the original Grimm's Tales, you'd realize that… well, they're grim. Themes like abuse, murder, betrayal, and cannibalism are just a sampling of the darker elements that make regular appearances in the stories' original versions, though they've often been toned down quite a bit. American McGee's Grimm seems intent on bringing the stories back to their darker roots, though, starting with A Boy Learns What Fear Is. A little over a month ago, Ben got to check out a near-final build of the game, and while things aren't immensely different from then, they seem a little more polished.
Grimm, an evil little troll, hates how fairy tales are so joyful and decides to make them the little gems of horror that he thinks they should be. Each episode starts out with a puppet show telling the mainstream version of the Grimm Tale in question, after which Grimm himself goes through the story and changes things for the worse. After he has gone through the whole tale, a darker version of the puppet show is put on, this time with an ending far less joyful. Each of these revised fairy tales take roughly an hour to complete and will be released at a rate of one a week. Playing through A Boy Learns What Fear Is, it's hard not to be reminded of Katamari Damacy; instead of rolling around a ball of stuff, Grimm spreads a kind of spiritual pollution throughout each level.
At the beginning of each level, players start off with a basic "darkness" level that they increase by spreading darkness throughout the realm. Spreading this spiritual pollution causes the world to become twisted and icky, such as the playground that gradually turns into a graveyard. There are two ways to spread darkness: it spreads in a radius around Grimm as he runs about, but he can also perform a move knows as the "butt stomp" which causes an increased burst of darkness to radiate out. Certain roadblocks stand in the way, and they, in turn, can only be removed after Grimm's nastiness level reaches a certain point. Initially, there are characters who will undo Grimm's corruption of their environment, so the first few minutes of each new area are spent in a frantic race to actually create enough darkness in order to overpower these do-gooders and convert them to the darker side of things.
Even though this concept sounds potentially grotesque, it's nicely balanced out by the game's puppet-like graphics. As a result, the changes to the story's world come across as hysterical and strange rather than horrifying and grotesque. Combine this with the fact that the dialogue and voice acting (mostly provided by industry veteran Roger Jackson) are goofy and amazing, and the overall feel of the game never veers outside of comedic waters.
The frustrating thing is that it's nearly impossible to actually reach the highest darkness level. After three play-throughs of A Boy Learns What Fear Is, I came close to the maximum rank by running about and performing Grimm's butt stomp everywhere, but I always seemed to miss some hidden portion that was left unsullied. The other problem in the episode is that there are occasional clipping issues with characters partially walking through objects as they go about their rounds.
Overall, it's hard not to like the first episode of Grimm, because it's simultaneously goofy, child-like, and completely twisted. While it isn't perfect, it certainly is a lot of fun to play. For the first entry into a weekly episodic series, it's a nice premiere; if each episode's quality improves from here, gamers will definitely be in line for a treat. Plus, right now the game is free to play, so you have no excuse.
Verdict: Buy? Subscribe? Just go and play because it's free!
Developer and Publisher: GameTap
Price: Free this week
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