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American McGee’s Grimm

Article by Sandra Prior

The strapline trumpets: ‘Happily ever after ends now.’ It’s not wrong. Happiness won’t be the emotion experienced while playing this waste of time. McGee’s history: 2004’s Scrapland was mediocre, while 2006’s Bad Day LA was an unmitigated disaster. His return, in the form of weekly episodic games featuring disturbing take on classic fairy tales, isn’t a step forward. I’ll describe the sum total of what you do in Grimm: you run around. That, astonishingly, is it. It’s as if someone looked at a platform game and thought, ‘Let’s take out everything except basic movement – that’ll save time’.

The idea: you get told a fairy tale (A Boy Learns What Fear Is, Little Red Riding Hood, or The Fisherman And His Wife; only the middle one is faintly recognizable), and then play through it trying to turn it all dark. Your mere presence is enough to twist things to your evil bent. Despite primitive design (making the Unreal 3 engine look ten-years-old), it morphs nicely from candy-colored happy to a twisted, morbid gothic design. The more you turn grim, the more powerful your ability to do the same becomes.

The only element of game that could possibly excite would be working out where you need to do the ‘buttstomp’ jump, but the game insists on literally putting up a giant sign to tell you to do it, every single time. It’s like being trapped in a perpetual, patronizing tutorial, determined to rob the only hope of fun the games could offer. Oh, and when Grimm stands still, he pisses.

You wonder if the game might be designed for the tiniest of kids, but then you hear someone get called a ‘slut’ or see scenes of dying children hanging from nooses. Seriously.

The idea was to bring fairy tales back to their original – far more horrific – nature, which is a noble intent. But the resulting mess is a bemusing narrative where despite your involvement, Little Red Riding Hood still doesn’t get killed by a wolf. Huh? But in the A Boy Learns What Fear Is, you turn children into matchsticks who then mindlessly burn a teacher to death. Pardon?

None of the three are well told, and only the first has any allusion toward a puzzle. The second two abandon even this, requiring literally nothing more than |running about until a scene ends. McGee has three eight-episode seasons of this planned. The games are free, funded by Gametap to lure you to their online services, but even then, they’re somehow still a rip-off.

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