Aftergrinder‘s trailer warns players to “get ready to die” to which at first I was like ‘pfft whatever game, you’re no match for me’. Well how naive I was because not 11 levels later was I already cursing and raging as I died a hundred times over trying to beat a seemingly simple arcade-runner. This is a game that demands not only lightning fast reflexes but a healthy dose of patience as well to get through and you’ll need every bit of it as the game pushes your buttons through its 90 levels of sheer platforming madness. But you know that the crazy part is? I loved every minute of it.
On the surface the gameplay of Aftergrinder is pretty straightforward. The game is an auto-runner, so you’re always moving from left to right trying to avoid obstacles. The difference here is that these obstacles can come from either the ground or above, forcing you to constantly switch between grinding on the floor or the ceiling. What this means for you (and your thumbs) is that the game quickly becomes a twitchy, switch here, switch their experience that constantly ramps up as you go through each level. The game gets even tougher when you add in the need to duck (in both directions), thankfully though the controls are simple (you really only use Up and Down) meaning you won’t have to think about what you’re doing other than dodging walls and pits.
Aftergrinder features 90 levels across three worlds, each of which has three tokens to collect as you grind through at supersonic speed. These tokens are basically how the game looks at ramping up the difficulty as you’ll often have to take a much harder route or pull off some extremely tricky moves if you want to collect them all. That being said, the game isn’t totally heartless as you can also play as three different characters, one of which has a lower top speed, making not only collecting the tokens easier but also finishing the game in general. I definitely recommend playing as ‘The Dude’ as soon as you can in order to get a grip on the game’s mechanics and the moving on the faster characters.
Almost as aggressive as the gameplay is the game’s presentation. With its stark contrast of muted towns and sharp colors the game immediately stands out among the crowd and just screams ‘punk!’. The soundtrack is also a perfect fit for the game what with its ‘hard’ dubstep/chiptune beats. Aftergrinder is a game that demands your attention as soon as you see anything about it, not for its overproduced visuals or detailed presentation, but for its loud, angry and sharp presentation. Really the only thing I could ask more of is the background layers are a bit boring, especially after grinding through each level multiple times.
Coming in at $7.49 USD (with a 25% launch discount), Aftergrinder is a great deal for those looking for a budget friendly experience with some meat to it. Sure the gameplay is pretty one note (it really just is an arcade-runner) but the replaybility and challenge will keep you coming back for more. Aftergrinder is also a surprisingly great multiplayer experience (even though it’s a single player game) as me and my friends had a ton of fun just passing the controller back and forth and seeing who could beat some of the game’s tougher levels or beat my (ridiculously good) high scores.
Aftergrinder will chew you up, spit you out, chew you up again (because its hardcore like that) and then probably spit you right into your own mother’s face. It’s a brutally challenging game that embraces its difficulty to deliver an unapologetic experience that forces you to get better at it or go and play something else. For some, this approach will be a big turnoff, as it’s a game the demands you bow down to it before you master it but for others, myself included, this trial by fire was exactly what the doctor ordered after a few years of playing through easy 2D platformers and I hope other games aren’t afraid to challenge like Aftergrinder did to me.