Grapple Dog Review

After being well received on other platforms, Grapple Dog recently released on Xbox and it is definitely worth checking out, with a mix of old-school sensibilities and modern mechanics and presentation.

We play at the titular Dog who, after an excursion to an ancient site to do research goes awry, ends up with said grapple hook that is initially used to escape the predicament but ultimately is a tool to help save the world. It’s a very 90’s platformer set-up, though the writing is full of charm and humour, and is kept brief enough so as to not interrupt the action for too long.

Said action is where Grapple Dog got its hooks in to me, with retro feeling platforming that sent me right back to my childhood. Dog is an agile little guy, capable of high jumps, wall jumping, and quite happy bouncing on jump pads all in one motion. The level design makes great use of these abilities, offering up deviously and deceptively tricky platforming, especially if we want to collect all of the trinkets in each stage. Taking cues from Mario and Sonic, Grapple Dog has plentiful coin-adjacent bits to collect as well as a bonus coin and five purple gems: the latter is required to unlock further levels, though the requirements are fairly generous so as to not hinder progress too much.

Of course, part of the joy of titles like this is figuring out how to grab everything in a level (and we actually get extra purple gems for collecting sets amount of pineapple-looking things, which makes the temptation even more irresistible). This is where the Grapple comes in. Dog can latch onto to specific surfaces and swing about the place. Early examples are simple affairs, just swing as high as we can before launching into a well-timed wall jump, but later on Medallion Games aren’t afraid of requiring us to chain swings, jumps, bouncing and combat in order to collect those hard to reach collectibles.

It can get quite tough, though with no live system we’re at least able to restart from the recent checkpoint as much as we like. Dog also can withstand a few hits before this is needed – a blessing at times as I got a bit gung-ho repeatedly. Especially true in the boss battles, as these can prove to be tricky indeed, capping each set of levels with a well designed but tough fight.

Once a stage has been cleared we’re also invited to try our hand at speed running it – there is no real reward other than the self satisfaction, but this is still a great add and another nod to other classic platformers.

I did find getting to grips with the grapple a little harder than I expected. It can only be aimed either straight up or up/diagonal depending on which way we’re moving. This led to a few times where I’d miss a grapple as I was holding a direction while trying to shoot straight up, or visa-versa. Playing more obviously made this easier, but even late on there were moments where I’d miss a final grapple that I’d just slightly mis-aimed, which could see me sent a not insignificant way back.

Dog’s jumps also felt a little off at times, with the forward jumps being a bit too rigid in their distance. I’d find myself hopping over enemies or bounce pads as I just couldn’t quite intuit the feel correctly.


However, these niggles were not enough to put me off playing Grapple Dog. When things are flowing smoothly and we’re swinging and jumping all over the place, it’s as fun as we could hope it to be. That classic collect-a-thon itch is well and truly scratched, the pixel art visuals are lovely to look at, and there’s a charm to the whole thing that just makes it a joy to play at the end of a hard day.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Lovely pixel art visuals
  • Platforming challenge is well-crafted
  • Full of charm
  • Can take some time to get to grips with the grapple and jump mechanics
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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