Key art of Grapple Dog

Grapple Dog Review

February 14, 2022

By: Tanushri Shah

 
 

When it comes to traditional 2D platformers, I’m someone who’s all thumbs. You know the picture of a bunch of kids and their mom helping them clear a level of Super Mario? That was pretty much my experience with platformers as a kid for the most part. Of course, over the years I can say I’ve gotten a lot better with them, but they’re not exactly the first genre I’ll pick up. Grapple Dog is a game that has quite a bit of bite to it in terms of challenge, but for unseasoned players like my 5-year old self, has some great accessibility options.

Grappling in Grapple Hook

The Main Hook

Grapple Dog opens up with a cutscene depicting The Great Inventor, a long-lost figure whose inventions (electricity, the telephone, and a toaster being among them) were life-changing. Now scattered across the world, Pablo’s and friends are researching the Inventor. After a terrible fall, Pablo runs into a robot who guides him to one of the first inventions you’ll find, the grappling hook. 

 

Being the not-so-bright dog he is though, Pablo finds out he’s been tricked into freeing an evil robot instead who’s out to find the Inventor’s inventions for himself. It’s a simple premise that’s engaging enough. The little interactions that the main characters have are cute, like the budding romance between Pablo and Toni, their ship’s engineer, or the banter with the professor. It’s much like a Saturday morning cartoon and feels warm and familiar.

The gameplay has that same nostalgic feeling as well. While your main method of maneuvering is your grappling hook, you can dash, bounce between walls, and stomp your way through levels. The grappling hook tethers to any blue surfaces and enemies in midair. Unfortunately, the grappling hook doesn’t always stick the landing, as you can only aim it diagonally and straight up. It’s not too often that the grappling hook will fail you, but those few times can end up being pretty crucial. 

 
 
The overworld map in Grapple Dog

Grappling With the Game

Respawning in Grapple Dog will send you straight to your last checkpoint, and unfortunately, they can end up being pretty far away, setting back your progress by a lot. Redoing these segments can be a real chore when the grappling hook relies on getting your timing down to the tee. It’s just as frustrating when a single spike on a wall or a corner of the wall underwater sends you to your doom. 

There’s a good variety of collectibles spread out throughout each level, but the main ones to look out for are the magenta-colored gems. These are essentially Grapple Dog’s version of Mario’s star coins, with 5 of them spread out throughout each level. Unlike in Mario Bros. however, collecting these isn’t really optional. 

 
 

You’ll need a certain number of them to unlock the final boss level in each world, so sometimes this means going back and replaying levels to get enough gems. This can end up being a chore for some players. That being said, Grapple Dog does have a certain degree of replayability. Once you complete a level you’ll unlock a time trial mode for that level. The better your score, the better the rewards. 

Pablo running through a level in Grapple Dog

After clearing the first world, I was curious to see how the game’s accessibility options affected the gameplay. Having both ‘infinite jump’ and ‘no damage’ essentially turns you into a grapple god instead of a grapple dog. It was fun to mess around with both of those on, but ultimately I just left ‘no damage’ on, and boy, does it make for a lot less of a riling experience. 

You don’t end up having to be hauled all the way back to your last checkpoint, but there’s still a slight challenge as you take hits and can lose your rhythm of movement. Towards the end of my run with the game where the difficulty really ramped up, I ended up heavily relying on this option as my patience was wearing thin towards the end of Grapple Dog’s 33 levels.

 
 

I also did wish the gameplay made better use of Grapple Dog’s story. After getting one of The Great Inventor’s inventions, the grappling hook, we’re meant to go around finding the rest of them, but to my disappointment, these are purely collectibles and don’t add anything to the game. It’s a missed opportunity for adding upgrades to the grappling hook or even other gadgets. 

Pawsitively Adorable

What did keep my spirits lifted was the adorable pixelated art style of Grapple Dog. The characters are all incredibly adorable and quirky (especially the polar bear who asks you to use its head as a springboard). I was pretty impressed with how smooth everything looked in the early cutscenes while keeping the pixel art for its visuals.

A polar bear in Grapple Dog

The soundtrack is also fresh and funky, although I did wish there was more of a variety to listen to. Having to listen to the same track each level within a single world did give me a bit of fatigue as I progressed through the levels. 

Final Thoughts

Grapple Dog is a game with a personality as sunny as its protagonist but also fails to hit some of the beats of a great platformer. It’s perfect for scratching that nostalgic itch of a challenging old-school platformer, and has some really dandy accessibility options, but is still pretty ruff around the edges.

 
 

TechRaptor reviewed Grapple Dog on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC.

Review Summary

Review Summary

7.0
A fun platformer that offers quite the challenge, Grapple Dog scratches that nostalgia itch but is still pretty ruff around the edges.

Pros

  • Accessibility options for easier progression
  • Replayability through time trials
  • Delightful pixel art

Cons

  • Checkpoint system can be unforgiving
  • Backtracking to unlock next further levels
  • Story setting isn't utilized well for gameplay