It’s been a long while since a puzzle game has captured our attention quite as much as Grindstone.
There’s a chance you’re already familiar with Capybara Games’ action-packed puzzler. Grindstone launched as an Apple Arcade exclusive back in 2019, before landing on Switch in 2020 and PC in 2021. Finally, it’s now available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles – and if you’re a fan of arcade puzzle games, you’re not going to want to miss this one.
Playing as Jorj – or his mum, Jorja – Grindstone has you chaining attacks through lines of coloured enemies. Typically, your goal is to clear a certain amount of enemies before the door opens, allowing you to complete the level. As such, you’ll want to chain the longest string of enemies as possible, plotting your path through monsters of the same colour. There’s an air of match three puzzler here, then, but with Grindstone throwing in plenty of other elements requiring careful thought and strategy, it stays well away from falling into mobile game territory.
Chain through ten or more enemies, and you’ll generate a grindstone – a shiny crystal which will then allow you to switch colours mid-chain. These are necessary if you want to achieve a long chain, and to really excel at Grindstone, long chains are the key. You’ll frequently come up against tougher enemies which can only be passed through (and defeated) if you’ve amassed a chain of 5 or 10, occasionally higher. A typical level goal simply requires you to clear so many enemies – 50, 75 or 100, usually – but others might require you to defeat a number of special enemies first.
There are boss levels, too, mixing up Grindstone‘s action and challenging you in new ways. Some levels throw special features into the mix, like trapdoors that can be activated with a lever, bombs, and pools of poison. Sure, the moment-to-moment gameplay is rather samey – you’re always simply making your way through enemies of the same colour, generating the biggest chain you can. But with levels offering such a variety, it’s hard to get bored. On the contrary, we’ve struggled to put Grindstone down since we started playing.
The sheer amount of content here is impressive, too. The PlayStation and Xbox versions of Grindstone are launching with all available content, which Capybara Games has been drip-feeding to the existing versions over the last few years. That means there’s now 500 levels across various environments and featuring a mix of enemy types. With levels typically taking 10-15+ minutes to solve – if you’re going for all objectives, that is – Grindstone is a huge timesink.
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You’re not simply making your way through levels, either. Grindstone has glorious loot to be collected while you play – and so much of it. There’s a huge variety of resources which can be gleaned from each level, from wood to ore to monster parts and more. All of these resources can be used to craft (and maintain) useful pieces of equipment, which can be used to help you out in a level. For example, you can use a potion which moves you to any place on the game board. Or you can deploy a shield which will protect you from an attacking enemy. Various swords allow you to deal damage before your turn, useful for whittling down special enemies, or simply clearing a path in the hopes that you’ll get a better colour line-up.
On top of the main campaign, Grindstone has three daily challenge modes. Each one offers a set level for you to try each day, and your performance will be converted into a score, allowing you to compete against other players globally. There are resources to be gathered from the daily challenges, too, so they’re worth jumping into every day.
Grindstone‘s premise is simple in the best way possible: this is the sort of puzzle game that really gets its claws into you and doesn’t let go. Getting a high score in a daily challenge is a thrill, and getting a record-breaking chain is oh-so-satisfying. It helps that it looks fantastic, too, with a sumptuous hand-drawn art style. If you’re after a casual puzzle game with some substance, you really can’t get any better than this. Just prepare yourself to be unable to put it down.