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American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol

Score: 79%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: GameTap
Developer: Spicy Horse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Grimm returns for yet another distorted telling of a classic tale. And to keep in the holiday theme, we aren't sticking to classic Brothers Grimm stories. Instead, this time we are taking on a classic tale from Charles Dickens in American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol.

The game's visuals styles are, as always, that of a strange puppet theater with marionette-like models dangling from invisible strings (at least during the cut scenes). While in-game, you will run around the various settings of Scrooge's journey, including his house, his various Christmases and the after-effects of his visits. All the while, you will be turning what can be seen as a generally uplifting scenario into something much darker.

Music actually plays a big part in this particular game as well. While the levels are in their light mode, there is a distinctly Christmas song style to the background tunes. But as Grimm does his dirty work, the music takes on a much darker tone. I can't tell if the songs simply switch to a minor key or the instruments switch to organs (my musical ear is definitely not fine-tuned enough to tell), but the effect is very obvious. You will end up hearing some classical sounding Christmas music in a much darker tone by the time you are done with the level.


American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol goes through the story of Ebenezer Scrooge's visit by the four ghosts (his old business partner and the three spirits). In this tale, we start off by touring Scrooge's manor as he and the ghost Marley discuss the night's haunts. From there, we go to the strange dreamy world of Scrooge's various Christmases. First, we go to a time when Scrooge was just a kid, then we travel to Christmas Present where we see his employer's attempt at a happy dinner, then, of course, it's off to Scrooge's funeral and then back to the here-and-now, where Scrooge is a changed man.

In true Grimm fashion, our anti-hero doesn't feel like Scrooge has really gone through enough to truly change him, so the little imp's journey through the miser's tale causes a much darker and foreboding tale to be told.

There are several changes to the game that have been slowly creeping into the series over the past few episodes, and these actually add quite a bit of character and possibly re-playability to the game. While the American McGee's Grimm series has always encouraged replays to get faster times and better scores, there hasn't been a lot to really support this besides a clock in the corner of the screen. At this point, the clock actually changes color as you go from a gold time to a silver time to a normal time. So those trying to get as fast a time as possible will have a really good idea of just how quickly they need to move. Add to that the fact that finding bonuses actually subtracts time from your clock and the desire to replay these levels goes up quite a bit.


Like the rest of the games in the series, American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol isn't tough. For the most part, the challenge comes in trying to beat top scores and find all of the secrets. I have to say, though, it seems like some of the jumping and platformer issues that were prevalent in last volume's concluding episodes, American McGee's Grimm: The Fisherman and His Wife have been all but eliminated by the time this episode has come around. Previously, the issues with trying to jump on boxes swirling around a whirlpool really hindered the gameplay experience and made it really hard to beat. In A Christmas Carol, on the other hand, there were several platformer-heavy segments (like trying to run across disappearing floating books) that simply wouldn't have worked in the last volume. So, kudos for ironing out those kinks.

Game Mechanics:

This game series is pretty unique in that it is 3D, yet has very few required controls. Like past episodes, American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol requires you to simply know how to walk around the 3D world and jump (seriously minimizing the actual interactivity that goes on). As Grimm trucks about the level, the world around him shifts to a darker view, and the more of the level that you turn dark, the more you can turn dark (as noted by a meter at the top of the screen). Getting through specific obstacles requires you to Butt-Stomp near them once you've obtained a certain level of darkness, and then watching the calamity that unfolds because of it. It really is a feat in minimalistic controls that really lends itself well to the casual gamer.

It's too bad the minimum system requirements don't lend themselves just as well to the casual market. The game, itself, is simply designed and, quite frankly, shouldn't require the gaming monsters that the specs claim. The reason for this need seems to be because it runs off of the latest Unreal Engine, and while I've silently put up with this fact for two volumes, I simply can't hold back any more. It's just ridiculous that a game of this style requires so much to run it. But, at least it offers a lot in visual options, so you can scale the quality down to at least get it to run on a machine that doesn't quite meet the specs.

All that being said, those who have followed and enjoyed the previous installments of American McGee's Grimm shouldn't be disappointed in A Christmas Carol. Plus, instead of being free for the first day only (like most of the other releases), you can download American McGee's Grimm: A Christmas Carol without cost until the end of the year (2008), so followers of the game should at least try and grab it before it's too late.

-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

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