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American McGee's Grimm: Iron John

Score: 60%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: GameTap
Developer: Spicy Horse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

American McGee's Grimm: Iron John sports the simplistic blocky look of the series. While the look isn't particularly impressive, I had a hard time getting the game to run decently. Turning all effects off and lowering all the graphics settings to the lowest, there were still horrible framerate issues.

I was, however, able to test on a system with a GeForce 8600M GT, and it did play smoothly. So if you can run the game fairly well, you'll be treated to some blur effects when you turn, and there are a lot of charming details. It's also interesting to see what everything will turn into when you convert it. Picket fences become rusty barbed wire, trees become giant steel traps, and people get turned into gloomy, dejected-looking souls.

The gruff voice of Grimm will become quite familiar as you play. If he had a better script, perhaps he wouldn't be as annoying. Even so, there is a lyrical quality to the writing, and that does provide some charm. The music is cute, and has a retro sound as if it came from the early days of PC gaming.


American McGee's Grimm: Iron John tells the Brothers Grimm fairytale of the same name. That, except for the fact that it is written in a confusing, nonsensical style. If you jump straight into the game, you'll discover that you're playing as a little guy that kind of looks like a pirate. You're here to corrupt a happy fairytale world and turn everything into a dark, disgusting mess. But if you hadn't watched the story intro, you'd have absolutely no idea what the world was about. Of course, if you're familiar with the fairytale, you'd have some idea, but otherwise it's a disjointed and confusing mess.

Iron John was originally a tale about a prince who befriends a "wild" man. The man was described as having skin like iron, hence the name, but American McGee's Grimm takes this a step further and makes Iron John into an iron robot. The game walks through the major parts of the story where the young prince plays in Iron John's well, fights in a war, and marries the princess in the end, but it really doesn't make it into an interesting retelling.

Even after you make yourself familiar with the Iron John tale, it's still difficult to get into this game. Grimm is going around and subverting all the happy bright things in the fairytale world, but to what end isn't exactly clear. It might be interesting if you were actually changing the fairytale into something different, but you're really just running around peeing on stuff and turning the grass black. That may be reason enough for some people, but it's as if the brainstorming for the game stopped at this point.

That brings up another point. The Grimm fairytales weren't originally sugar-coated happy tales anyway. Maybe the creators were thinking of Disney when they came up with the idea. Either way, even if you accept the sweet, sugary version of the tale, there doesn't seem to be much reward or motivation to ruin it. Grimm just wants to ruin it because he wants to.


American McGee's Grimm: Iron John isn't a very long game, so the difficulties you may encounter with it will at least be limited by that. The parts of the game that will probably hold you back the most are the platforming sections. They seem to be thrown in, and they are extremely short. But they can be extremely frustrating and they feel unnecessary. There is a special ability of Grimm's that will allow you to plan jumps: if you stand still long enough, he'll start peeing. Then you can just hit jump to automatically jump to the "targeted" area. But you need to have time to use it, so it can be tough when you're trying to beat a disappearing platform.

Other than that, the game is mostly a frantic race to run around the map. Each level is divided into sublevels where you have to reach a certain level of filth, so you can take it in small chunks. It may take a while to achieve each goal, but you never really lose. You only lose a bit of ground and you may have to work to attain it again. Also, since the platforming and the running components of the game are completely separated, you don't have to worry about combining the two of them under pressure.

Game Mechanics:

American McGee's Grimm: Iron John doesn't ask the player to do anything particularly complex. You'll run and jump, and do the occasional running-jump. Alright, you also have a butt-stomp that you can use by doing a double jump. This stuns your "enemies" who are constantly cleaning up the nasty mess you leave behind. Other than that, you're just running around trying to spread filth and nastiness in an otherwise happy and candy cane world. Wherever you walk, the filth spreads around you automatically. So the game is mostly a matter of running around all the corners of the map and keeping the good guys at bay just enough to achieve the required level of filth on your Dark-O-Meter.

This works fine until you come to the platforming parts of the game, which are inevitably the most frustrating and tedious. This isn't the end of the world, as there are only a few parts in an extremely short game. Still, it is enough to make you walk out, even though you may be 30 minutes into an hour-long affair.

These short American McGee games have promise, but it's hard to recommend them. There just isn't much substance here, even for about an hour's worth of game.

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

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:

Physical memory greater than or equal to 512 MB, A video card greater than or equal to 128 MB memory, CPU speed greater than or equal to 2400 MHz

Test System:

Windows XP, 3.20 GigaHertz Intel Pentium 4, 4 GB Ram, RADEON X850, Creative SB Audigy 2 ZS

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated