While 16-bit consoles have since been replaced by much, much, much newer models, that’s not to say you can’t drag them out of the closet and enjoy them. In fact, systems like the SNES and Sega Genesis are in high demand these days, with games like Rocket Knight Adventures and the Castlevania games fetching top dollar. The reason? Enjoyable platforming action. But for those that don’t have a system to turn to (at the moment, anyway), the developers at Medallion Games have the next best thing for Nintendo Switch – Grapple Dog.
This is the first game to be fully published under Super Rare Games’ label, following the company’s work on Nintendo Switch physical releases. It’s the right pick for the job, inspired by its 16-bit roots while packing in a few new tricks. For those that love this sort of game, this is one you’ll easily want to, ahem, snatch up.
That’s a Good Looking Boy
The game puts you in control of a dog who needs to sail around trouble-filled waters, stopping enemies in their tracks. He’s equipped with a special grapple arm, which can allow him to swing and grab certain objects. Think Bionic Commando, with more adorableness.
Using this special ability, Grapple Dog needs to collect five special gems across the level while defeating enemies. He can also pick up fruits to earn him 1ups, as well as vegetables to have secondary characters lend a hand. (Apparently, goats are crazy for carrots – who knew?)
The variety of levels included in Grapple Dog is impressive, with hours’ worth of stuff to find. What’s more, the interface to access each of the levels is fantastic. You’ll essentially sail around trouble-filled waters in your boat, occasionally setting out for bonus stages – and more gems.
Level design’s just part of it, though. Medallion has also included some really cute – and effective – visuals here. Grapple Dog himself is a smiling delight, so adorable that you’d hardly think he was a threat. The enemy design isn’t so creative, but they fit in with the terrain nicely anyway. All of it ties together into a sweet 16-bit style engine that’s fun to look at, both on a TV and in handheld mode.
Backing that up is a top-notch soundtrack, which reminds us of some of the better music from old Game Boy Advance platformers. It’s well synthesized, though in early stages it does tend to repeat a little bit. Still, it has a manic energy to it that keeps up with our grappling hero.
Swinging To Success
Where Grapple Dog’s success truly lies is in its mechanics. Medallion Games has made a terrific gameplay system here. Between grappling onto objects, finding hidden areas, and activating switches, it’s fun to explore each level. There are also hidden stages to track down as well, bringing you that much closer to 100 percent completion.
The only thing I’m a bit sore about is that the arm can’t really be used too much in combat. I mean, it’s a grapple arm, so why can’t it be used for punch attacks? On the other hand, the jump-and-bop mechanics work well enough. There’s also a butt slam, with Grapple Dog doing it almost as well as Mario. So he’s not completely unable to defend himself.
Overall, the difficulty is just about right as well. There is some challenge when it comes to finding every single gem, but it’s a pleasant enough game for all ages. Kids will surely enjoy it; and those nostalgic for an old-school romp will want to, ahem, grab on? (No more puns. Well, maybe one more.)
Go, Go Grapple Dog!
While there are some things that could’ve used a little sprucing up, the overall verdict for Grapple Dog is positive. It gets most of its good stuff right, particularly with level design and exciting gameplay mechanics. It also looks wonderful (if a bit over-colorful at times), and the soundtrack is a fun listen. Plus there’s plenty to do between bonus levels and other hidden goodies.
So if you can’t find a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis lying around for cheap, do the next best thing. Latch on to Grapple Dog!
VIBE Rating: 8.5/10
Need more of the old-school? Check out our review of PowerSlave: Exhumed!