When it comes to mobile games, all a new title has to do to draw me in is show a Candy Crush-style grid of objects. There’s something about the simple mechanic of making connections on a grid that’s hard for me to resist. Most of the time, though, I find that while such games can easily grab my interest, many will quickly lose it when I actually start playing. It’s usually just standard match three games that keep my attention, so when I first tried out Grindstone, I didn’t think it would be for me.
Grindstone is an Apple Arcade title from Capy and the creative team behind the excellent Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. It features a familiar grid of objects – in this case monsters to defeat – but rather than rearranging matching monsters in a Candy Crush fashion, you’re tasked with tracing a line from one matching monster to another, determining the order in which you’ll slay them and potentially earn rewards. Monsters have to be adjacent to each other for you to string them together, so essentially you’re completing a connect the dots puzzle each turn with as many monsters destroyed as possible.
This connect the dots mechanic is starkly different from the match three games I love, but Grindstone managed to hook me anyways. Part of its success is due to the game’s personality: I love the fantasy theme and artwork, the humor of seeing monsters freak out when they fall into your charted attack path, and the RPG elements of purchasing upgrades to equip your character with. What I think has really kept me engaged, however, is the excellent balance between the game’s simple concept and how it adds complexity through special enemies and items.
If your only goal in Grindstone is to get past each level alive, the game won’t throw too many obstacles in your way. The path to victory is tied to the number of monsters you’ve defeated: knock out the required number, as listed in the top-right corner of the screen, and the locked exit door will burst open so you can leave whenever you’d like. But if you want to earn additional loot before you leave, there’s a healthy mix of special monsters to defeat, treasure chests to unlock, and other varied elements scattered throughout each level that keep things interesting and serve as a fun push-your-luck element.
The longer you play a level, the more chances you’ll also have to earn grindstones, which are crafted when you put together a long streak of monsters defeated in a turn. Grindstones are multi-colored jewels that get added to the grid and enable you to attack multiple monster types in a single turn, thus enabling longer streaks and, as a result, better grindstones. It’s a vicious, but exhilarating cycle that makes you want to keep taking the risk of extended play.
If you enjoy puzzle games where you can move at your own pace, taking time to think through each turn, but not too much time because the game isn’t a brain burner, Grindstone has a lot to offer. The tension of how long you play each level, and thus risk being defeated by the progressively more dangerous monsters, makes for a skillfully-balanced experience. Whether you want something quick, simple, and not too strenuous (at least in the earlier levels), or you’re really looking to push yourself to earn all the loot a level holds, Grindstone offers fun tailored to a variety of gamers’ tastes.
Grindstone is available as part of Apple Arcade on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac.