Grapple Dog Review (Steam): Hook, Line And Woof! Woof!

Sling your hook!... and salute the sun with an upward dog - a Grapple Dog that swings from here to there, clinging to platforms, as well as your... heart.

Grapple Dog was one of my favourite platform games on the Amiga 500. I’d play it religiously to beat my times and collect everything in the game without using a single cheat. The thing is, Grapple Dog wasn’t an Amiga game at all, and it was released a couple of years ago. 

Medallion Games’ 2D platformer was offered to me a while back, and I was happy to have a look at it without knowing anything about it, but it never materialised. You’ll note that I knew nothing about it, so I never followed up on it. Cue WASD Live 2024, and upon sighting one of my most anticipated games, Tiny Terry’s Turbo Trip, I noted a familiar-looking character in the form of a sequel: Grapple Dogs: Cosmic Canines

After playing a quick go and falling in love with the fluidity of the mechanics (and my little girl biting my ear off that we need to play the first one), the very lovely Super Rare Games provided a review code for Grapple Dog on Steam, and without being influenced by their charm, will give, as always, an honest assessment.

Grapple Dog Review - Swinger
Swinger. Source: Steam

Grapple Dog Review (Steam) – Pablo Platformer

Returning to the opening statement, Grapple Dog immediately hits the feels in the right ways. It’s a precision platformer that is very much in the model of the classic 16-bit games, only much more vibrant and a little more forgiving than its predecessors. I say ‘forgiving’ because it’s still hard, but a certain animal looks deep into your eyes and encourages you to remain calm and carry on.

You play as a research assistant named Pablo. Pablo isn’t much of an assistant, but their heart’s in the right place, unlike their footing as they stumble upon an imprisoned bot hellbent on destroying everything in its path. The rotter. Fortunately, Pablo also stumbles upon the prefix to the game: a grapple gun.

Rather than compare Grapple Dog to some obvious choices, I will play on a retro vibe and say the grappling mechanic is similar to Batman: The Movie… on the Amiga 500. Now that I’ve lost anyone under 30-something (feel free to look it up on YouTube), Pablo can attach their grapple to certain blocks and swing, ascend and descend to otherwise unreachable areas. 

Grappledog Review - Peace
Peace. Source: Steam

Swing Doggy Doggy Swing

Naturally, the grapple in Grapple Dog has to be its USP, but the other mechanics make this such a noteworthy platform game that is well worth your attention. So many other platformers could take tips on the wall climb with elegance, utilising environmental mechanics to make it immersive and having a fair share of secret paths and collectables (including time attack modes) for instant replayability.

While you’re compiling a case for your parents, better half, or bank manager on why you must purchase this game, note that replayability usually means returning to a game after finishing it. This isn’t a finish in one sitting, then go back to Netflix for your next binge. In the third level, my little girl (who has decent ninja skills) passed me the Steam Deck to ‘get her past something tricky’.

That’s an understatement. As cute as Grapple Dog is, it packs a punch and is bound to cause some challenges. Some environmental hazards prompt a quick respawn, while others chip away at your health points until you return to the last checkpoint. It’s fair, but it might deter some casuals and younger players. My only beef with the game was the lack of after-touch when falling and directing a jump.

Grappledog Review - A lovely bunch
A lovely bunch. Source: Steam

An All-And-Out Grappler

But that’s about it. The actual grappling and flow of the game are brilliant, and a platform game in this modern age has rarely captivated me so much. Already, I hold this in as high regard as Super Meat Boy, Alwa’s Legacy and the little-known Sockventure. On that sentiment, this is an essential platformer as far as I’m concerned.

In terms of story, there’s a tale of The Great Inventor who has left some mysterious artefacts behind, and it’s up to Pablo and his friends, well, co-workers, to find them before a rogue robot obtains them – y’know, that bit at the beginning I alluded to what Pablo stumbles upon?

There was just the right balance of witty dialogue (including cute little barks from Pablo), ample challenge, and plenty of items to find. Usually, on the first level of a platform game, you can ace it and locate everything—such as the gems that unlock additional content. Nope, it took a couple of attempts to find everything, and even then, it was a joy to revisit some of the ‘easy’ stages.

Grapple Dog Review Summary

You’ve already heard about Grapple Dog, worn the t-shirt, got the tattoo, and even went the extra mile and caught rabies. That’s on you – that has nothing to do with this game, you weirdo. A couple of niggles, as mentioned; otherwise, this is going down as a must-have. I love it!

The verdict?