Okay, I’m just going to put it out there and straight up admit that I have quite the affinity for platformers of many kinds. It was basically the genre that pulled me into video games proper, and I will still happily devour what I can get my hands on if the experience is enjoyable in some way.
For Get-A-Grip Chip, developer/publisher Redstart Interactive seemed to take a “let’s take a mechanic from a game we love and build our own that does it justice” approach here, and went ahead and did just that. Those who may not be as retro-inclined as I am may be left scratching their heads at the gameplay premise, but those who are can look at this for not even ten seconds and go “that’s Bionic Commando with a cute robot” and not be too far off. While this game may not be the first to run with their influences (with middling results), one can always hope that what they come out with on the other side is a game worth something.
Get-A-Grip Chip is currently available on Steam and releasing on Nintendo Switch on March 25, 2021. The Switch version was played for this review.
Let’s Get Swinging
Depending on who you ask, the simplistic nature of the “use a simple plot as a motivator for the player” that hearkens back to the 8- and 16-bit era of gaming can be a relief or a disappointment in this day and age. Personally, I don’t really need a story in my game if other factors pick up the slack. Chip definitely falls in that old-school story category, and I’m okay with it.
Told through a handful of GIF-esque cutscenes, our assembly bot Chip finds their normal workday thrown out of whack when their Battery Bot assembly factory suffers a major malfunction from one of their higher class robots. Being the only thing standing between being a functioning magnet bot and total structural collapse, Chip is tasked with “repairing” the facility and set things right with the bot causing all the mayhem.
Really, that’s it for story. This isn’t a situation where the plot makes or breaks the game, as there’s been plenty of games that do well with a weak plot or even none at all. Chip is definitely one of those games that this absolutely applies to, as I constantly found myself so wrapped up in gameplay to even think about this. It’s more of a focal point than it is a driving force for a game like this, as the gameplay definitely takes center stage here.
Point of Attraction
When I say that Redstart was laser focused on gameplay, I can say with confidence that this sentiment has a good foundation to go off on. The Bionic Commando influence is on full display here, but it has its own twist. Obviously Chip is unable to jump, but they’re a mobile little bot with the ability to fire their magnet chain thing into designated grapple points from any angle and launch from that point. Getting from the beginning to the end of each stage really leans on the crux of this mechanic, and the level design mostly complements this.
These stages are set against 5 “floors” of the facility and difficulty does intensify as you progress. With the grappling mechanic in a 2D space not exactly being a major selling point in modern games, it’s important that controls stay tight. Thankfully, they are and most of the time the failures you run into will definitely be your fault. The grapple and launch mechanic seems to compliment the level design decently enough. Though when things get precise and the margin of error is little to none in execution, things do get a bit tedious.
However, the tedium really only rears its head in certain stages through design, not mechanics. Actually moving around and grappling things is actually pretty intuitive, even with a teeny learning curve attached to it. The only thing you’ll find yourself doing is moving around and grappling, and you’re able to aim as you move/hold to a point as well. You do have to have some level of precision here as you use the attach and launch mechanics, but even then it is a little bit forgiving.
The main attach point when you grapple is a magnet at the end of your chain when you launch it. Depending on how you launch it, you may luck out if you miss initially. Sometimes more difficult stages will throw environmental elements that make precision aiming difficult, and that can be a bit of an annoyance for more casual players. The biggest problem I had with grappling usually entailed high-precision situations, dealing with environmental hazards, or the rushed nature of the boss stages.
Overall, grappling in this game feels pretty damned good despite all of that. It also helps that the solid level design complements it for the most part. When things do get challenging, the difficulty is usually manageable. However, there is a (probably predictable) difficulty spike towards the end, and some cracks in the level design did show as a result. It did hamper the experience for me a bit, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
Progression doesn’t just entail swinging from beginning to end, though. Scattered through each of the 30 stages are a number of Battery Bots you have to at least seek out to some degree in order to progress. Many of these cute little guys can usually be found in various places. Sometimes along the beaten path, other times it requires you to do a little exploring to track them down. To collect some of them, there are times you’ll have to get really creative and precise to even reach some of them, as they could be hidden or not in a static place. I wouldn’t go as far as to say you’ll have to take a completionist approach to them, but it’s definitely a good idea to take a slight collectathon approach to tracking at least some of these little dudes down.
While some of the level design does get in the way of the mechanics, playing through this is a challenging and sometimes even rewardable experience. The main sticking point for me are later boss levels, as those can get tedious and frustrating really quickly. Every boss here boils down to an “advancing wall of doom” type of chase sequence, and those who may not be used to that sort of thing may end up at least dropping the controller in frustration at least a couple times. Feels safe to say that it’s not exactly my favorite part here.
The Design is Lava (and Sometimes Slime)
You know, with 2D indie games like this, it’s not uncommon to see simplistic art direction ala Super Meat Boy. Other times you get absolutely gorgeous examples of 2D design like you see in games like Gris. Chip‘s art design honestly feels like a means to an end to a certain extent. It’s not barren by any stretch of the imagination, but it does feel like the developers felt that the art design should be in service to the gameplay. In that aspect, they did succeed. No complaints here from that, as it does make it pretty clear what you’re supposed to be grabbing on among other things.
While effects and such complement it well enough, there were times where it did feel a touch on the Flash game side of things. Despite this, framerate issues never seemed to rear its head at all. This is to be expected with 2D art styles, and I’m sure the Switch’s hardware more than appreciates the fact that it doesn’t have to work itself to death to get this game to run smoothly. Having the cutesey aesthetic softens some rough edges a little bit, and I never seemed to lose sight of that even in the thick of more difficult stages. It’s occasionally bland, but it’s not overtly flash either and I’m okay with that.
The aesthetic from an audio perspective seemed to go in a little more of a low-key direction. While it doesn’t command your attention, the soundtrack doesn’t exactly blend in the background either. Sometimes you’ll get that secret agent vibe, sometimes it’s chill, other times it’s low key. I may not exactly want to bump this on Spotify regularly, but you can tell that some effort went into making this sound like something that would go with swingin’ around. There’s no dialogue, but sound effects and occasional robo-noises will pop in and out every so often. It’s nice and low key.
I’m always happy to see what comes out of the indie space, and I feel pretty confident in saying that this game is worth the price of admission. Are there issues that might frustrate some more casual players? Yeah, I’d say that it could be a sticking point. But this is Redstart’s first foray into making any sort of game, and that has to be taken into consideration. With that perspective, you really have to put your best foot forward if you want to succeed at all.
The effort put forth here is readily apparent and absolutely noticed, and that has to count for something. Get-A-Grip Chip is a fun and occasionally frustrating platformer that feels like the first step to greater things down the road. The addictive “let’s play another stage” aspect applies here, so don’t let that short runtime deter you. While it isn’t perfect, it’s worth a playthrough (or two) for the asking price they’re setting here. Here’s hoping for a sequel.
Review copy provided by Redstart Interactive for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Redstart Interactive.