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American McGee's Grimm: King Midas

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: GameTap
Developer: Spicy Horse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

I must confess that I've never played anything from American McGee, although I've always had a sense of the man's style. That being said, I've never played anything like American McGee's Grimm: King Midas. I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, and I was mostly right on the money. This episodic series takes pieces of ancient lore and poses it the same whopper of a "what if?" question. That question is: "What if I took [insert fairytale here] and made it as dark and disturbing as possible?" King Midas (and no doubt the rest of the Grimm series) answers that question. There may not be a whole lot of gameplay to speak of here, but American McGee's Grimm: King Midas offers a good dose of black humor that is expertly squeezed into a very entertaining hour.

King Midas employs a very unique aesthetic, one that I immediately took a liking to. The game sports a very blocky, marionette-like graphical presentation, a touch that fits very well within the game's context. It gives the game a very theatrical look - something that the developers took the necessary pains to deliver. The core gameplay of King Midas revolves around the graphical presentation, so I'll elaborate more on that in the next section.

The sound in King Midas is hit-and-miss. The hit is most definitely referring to the outstanding voicework - every voice actor lends his talents to make the players of this interactive production sound as vile as the context of the story demands. Grimm in particular sounds appropriately gruff and depraved. The music, on the other hand, consists of a series of loops that fits the tone of the game perfectly, but does get old very fast.


In American McGee's Grimm: King Midas, you play as Grimm, a dwarf who has a penchant for fouling things up. Before starting the actual game, it's a good idea to watch the presentation of the story in its original "pure" version, as it provides a very striking contrast between the faithful telling and the madness you eventually unleash upon the story itself. King Midas is the tale of a king who was chosen to judge a musical contest between the sun god Apollo and the satyr Marsyas. Midas's judgment does not sit well with Apollo and he is cursed with the ears of a donkey. He tries to keep it a secret, but his barber lets the word slip to a hole in the ground - the hole shouts Midas's secret to the world and he becomes the laughing stock of his kingdom. More gods are involved, Midas is purged of his curse (and given a more well-known curse), and he learns a lesson in the end. This doesn't sit well with Grimm. It's his job to make sure everyone's weaknesses are blown grievously out of proportion (Midas becomes an impulsive murderer, Dionysus can barely stand, and Ares clouts his father so hard Olympus crumbles). It's also his job to make sure that copious amounts of blood are spilled; people are gibbed by giant gold coins that materialize out of thin air and Midas's barber approaches the donkey ears in a very Sweeney Todd-esque manner.

When the actual game starts, Grimm is inserted into the opening scene of the story, and it is his goal to make the fairytale as brooding, violent, and disgusting as he possibly can. How does he go about doing this? By simply being himself. Grimm is such a vile being that his very presence brings forth the absolute worst in everything in existence. This automatically makes Grimm one of the most oddly endearing anti-heroes I've ever come across in a videogame. Everywhere he walks, the environment changes from happy and colorful to grim and dilapidated. It reminds me of Okami, except the concept is, like much in this game, turned on its head. As you traverse and foul up the various scenes, a incremental meter fills, and every time a notch is reached, the objects and people that seem more incorruptible become vulnerable to Grimm's nastiness. This part of the gameplay feels similar to the Katamari series. The transformations are quite humorous; statues become gazing Gorgons, citizens become imperialistic soldiers, and once Grimm reaches the scene when Midas receives the Golden Touch (as a gift from Dionysus for rescuing the hopelessly wasted Marsyas), Grimm's foulness transforms everything into gold. The object of each scene is to transform a certain percentage of the scene and "buttstomp" near the pivotal action that progresses the story.


American McGee's Grimm: King Midas is a total cakewalk. There is virtually no challenge present in the game, and that's perfectly fine; if the game is any indication, the goal of the developers is to provide a different breed of entertainment. They want you to finish this game, and believe me, you will. You'll see everything there is to be seen in about an hour. That being said, there really isn't any reason to return to King Midas after you've finished it. Those looking for meat to their games will find mostly bones here - the part of the experience that can be classified as gameplay is shallow and sometimes feels like work (sometimes it can be described as akin to mowing the lawn). Completionists and speed-runners may want to see how fast they can rush through the story in its entirety, but those with shortened attention spans will likely play through it once and never touch it again.

Game Mechanics:

American McGee's Grimm: King Midas features a very simple slate of gameplay mechanics. You run, you jump, and there's the whole thing where you turn the entire environment bleak and disgusting. There are some interesting touches that add to the humor level. If you're not sure you can make a particular jump, you can stand still until Grimm starts to urinate. The yellow stream issuing from the evil little avatar indicates how far Grimm can jump from that particular location. All you have to do is hit the jump button, and Grimm will follow the path of his pee arc. It's silly and extremely immature, but it's right at home here.

These days, there are too many games that don't value the gift of humor, and that's a shame. There are exceptions, however, such as Psychonauts and Animal Crossing (Mr. Resetti for President!). These are fine examples of games with an excellent sense of humor. Now I can add the Grimm series to that list. Although it's a really short production, American McGee's Grimm: King Midas is a great example of dark humor in an evolving medium.

GameTap offers new installments of the Grimm series for free within the first day of launch. See www.gametap.com/grimm for details.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Minimum System Requirements:

2.4 GHz Single Core Pentium Processor, 512 MB of System RAM, Nvidia 6200+ or equivalent video card w/128MB Video RAM, 500 MB of hard drive space

Test System:

AMD Athlon 64X2 Dual-Core Processor 6400+, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS, SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio, Windows Vista, Sony DVD RW AW-G170A ATA Device, 2x 1GB DDR2 at 400MHz

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