Friday, December 7, 2007

Grim Grimoire mini-review

Apart from having a funny and difficult to spell name, Grim Grimoire is an excellent blend of real time strategy with role playing elements over a unique side scrolling 2D gameplay. Here is a quick and short review of one of the better PS2 titles released this year.

You play as Lillet Blan, a student witch with the ability to summon, who is killed and send back five day to the moment when she arrived at the prestigious wizarding school. During the five day period Lillet will learn, study and relive the tragedy as well as learning the deep secrets about the school and its mysterious occupants. The five day cycle is repeated over and over again until she gains new spells, gain abilities and powers and with her throng of elves and fairies, seek to prevent the tragedy from happening in the first place.

Santa's little helpers up to no good

Instead of battlefields battles takes place in tall towers. During each battle you control Lillet, who appears on the screen as a mickey mouse cursor. Playing an RTS title on a console is a difficult task as a dual analog stick with a couple of face button isn't an ideal solution to selecting units. Here Vanillaware almost solved the problem through the mapping of face buttons for select predetermined actions. While not necessarily an awful thing, the controls takes some getting used to especially if you are used to the freedom and flexibility that a mouse bring to PC RTS titles.

For example you can select a unit on screen the move the cursor to whichever location you want to and the unit will move there. Holding the square face button down will allow you to drag around and select multiple unit. Likewise pointing a cursor to an enemy will instruct the selected units to attack it. The d-pad is used to cycle through the unit types. Missions can range from defending an area from enemies, to seeking out runes to destroy and harvest for Mana from crystals. Units can also patrol a given area and automatically attack any enemies that breach it.

Wendy, prepare to face the wrath of Tinker Bell and co.

As with any many RTS title fog of war exists so sending your little green fairies and elves to scout out enemy positions is a necessity. Battles are mainly straightforward but the screen can get very busy with plenty of special effects and huge monster sprites flying around the screen, not helped by the PS2 resolution output of only 480 vertical pixels. As you progress through the game and gain more abilities you can summon more advance creatures to your aid and upgrade your existing ones.

The visual art is engrossing. The developer has decided to shun polygons in place for detailed high-resolution hand drawn sprites - which in my books is a good thing, as they are gorgeous. Character portraits are used for scenes, though aren't as well animated as the super deformed battle sprites, are still visually well designed. Similarly enemy sprites are gigantic with chimeras and dragons putting their Castlevania counterparts to shame. The backgrounds are repetitive and reused often which makes it look glaring after repeated play.

"Does my ass look big in this?"

Conclusion, Grim Grimoire is a rather good game but should be considered a niche enough game not to be genre defining. While the controls works very well despite some poor execution, it is rather a chore to micromanage and repetitive gameplay hurts, at least it provides enough depth and fun. Dialogues are well written and witty enough to be appreciated, though not supplemented by the rather weak soundtrack. The storyline has been likened as a "Harry Potter rip-off" by people who do not read as often as they should.

Here's hoping that the much lauded Odin Sphere due out in PAL regions early next year will be equally if not more fun because I am now a huge fan of Vanillaware. But this itself is a fine single player experience.


Buy the PAL version from Amazon UK or NTSC version from Play-Asia

1 comment:

lul said...

Interesting art style but I am no fan of RTS games.