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American McGee's Grimm: A Boy Learns What Fear Is

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: GameTap
Developer: Spicy Horse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

American McGee's Grimm: A Boy Learns What Fear Is is the first episode in a new episodic game series. American McGee takes his twisted view of the world, and applies it to the fairytales we all grew up on. The interesting thing is that McGee's games help to show how the fairytales originally appeared, as dark, strange cautionary tales.

The general look of the Grimm games is unique by its own right. All models and characters are blocky in a cartoony fashion and look like something from another time. When everything is happy and lovey-dovey, the world is full of pastels and bright colors (think Candy Land), but after Grimm has had his way with an area, the world is dark and gloomy (think Nightmare Before Christmas).

The game's audio is so-so. Grimm himself has a harsh gravelly voice that will tell you what your next target is or when you are close to it, but besides his narration, you will find your ears filled with the somewhat upbeat music and over-the-top sound effects. Overall, the feel of the game is really sold well by both the visuals and audio aspects.


In American McGee's Grimm: A Boy Learns What Fear Is, we take a darker look at the fairytale of the same name (minus the McGee part) by the Brothers Grimm. In the original story, a boy left home where he lived a sheltered life, to learn what exactly fear was. He traveled across the land, but no matter what experiences he saw, nothing really made him scared.

Well, this tale, of course, eventually leads to a happy ending where the boy marries a beautiful princess. This, of course, just doesn't sit well with our character, Grimm, who will show this boy exactly what fear is.

The premise behind the game is really simple, and actually it reminds me quite a bit of Katamari, but I'll get to those similarities later. As Grimm, you will walk around the happy-go-lucky world and everything around you will turn dark and gloomy. Your job is to get to various areas of the scene, infecting as much as possible until all of the objectives have been changed.

For instance, in the first scene, you have to get the boy to leave the town. You start off by walking around a little garden turning as much of it as black as possible. Everything you turn dark increases your Dark-O-Meter. The more your Dark-O-Meter is filled, the bigger the things you can turn dark. In order to get out of the initial garden area, you have to fill your Dark-O-Meter to Smelly and then break through the gate. From there, you build up more darkness until you can change a log, and so on and so on. Eventually, you will turn the boy and his father and cause the little one to run away, thus ending the first of six scenes in this game.

Actually, that is how American McGee's Grimm reminds me of Katamari. In that game, you can't pick everything up at once, instead you have to pick up easier targets until you've amassed enough mass to pick up the bigger ones. Also you can't make it past certain barriers in that game unless you are big enough, the same principal applies here to, it's just instead of mass, and you have darkness. Oh and while you are dirtying things up, every level has a type of character running around cleaning up behind you, so you will want to darken as fast as possible so you can turn them as well.

The six scenes in A Boy Learns What Fear Is start off at his home village, continue to a place where some criminals are being hanged and then go to a school yard where a teacher has stolen a bell. Then the boy continues his journey to a cemetery which is followed by a haunted castle and finally, his wedding day.


I found American McGee's Grimm: A Boy Learns What Fear Is to be a nice quick game that will only take an hour or so to beat. Now before you go talking about what a waste this must be, remember that this game is designed to be episodic and A Boy Learns What Fear Is is only the first episode in the first volume, and to make matters more interesting, the game is expected to be released on a weekly manner, not monthly or so like other episodic games (Sam & Max for instance). So having a game that you can install and play through in a short period of time with the promise of more content in a week isn't all that bad. Especially since there is a little bit of replay value in this game since there are secret collectibles hidden in each level.

Game Mechanics:

American McGee's Grimm: A Boy Learns What Fear Is is a really simple game to play. Using the mouse to look around and the W-A-S-D keys to walk to, well, you just wander around. Anything that hasn't been turned in your area of effect that can be turned based on your current Dark-O-Meter level will simply change. You can also jump with the tap of the space bar, and if you click your mouse while in the air, you perform a stomp. The stomp itself is really the only other mechanic in the game. When you stomp, you will spread your darkness just a little further than your normal walking radius, and stun any cleaning characters that are in range. While it won't kill them, you will have a little more time to build up darkness so you can turn them that much quicker. The other purpose the stomp has is to take out the barriers that keep you from progressing. For instance, when you need to take out a hedge that can only be turned by a Nasty setting, you go up to it and Stomp to clear it away once you've gotten a high enough darkness level.

If A Boy Learns What Fear Is is any indication of how this series will turn out, then it is going to be a blast. And the best part is, this first episode is free! Definitely download it, especially if you like to see good fairytales go bad.

You can download the game at www.gametap.com/grimm.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

2.4 GHz Single Core Pentium Processor, 512 MB of System RAM, Nvidia 6200+ or equivalent video card with 128MB Video RAM, 500 MB of Free Hard Drive Space

Test System:

Alienware Aurora m9700 Laptop, Windows XP Professional, AMD Turion 64 Mobile 2.41 GHz, 2 GB Ram, Duel NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB Video Cards, DirectX 9.0c

Nintendo DS Journey to the Center of the Earth Microsoft Xbox 360 Operation Darkness

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated