Alone on a platform, the wind and the rain on a sad and lonely face. That definitely sounds familiar, both if you’ve listened to some eighties classics and if you’ve played GRUNND. The adventure game strongly features a strange and cryptic narrative that unfolds through limited puzzles and a kaleidoscope of quirky and weird characters. Is it worth the trip? Find out in the GRUNND review.
As mentioned, there is not much that will set up our hero’s journey. And yes, the main character will be referred to simply as “hero” throughout the story. He fell asleep on a train home, but found himself in a small town in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do except for waiting on a train that will carry him home. We explore the small town and get to know how everything seems, in some strange backward way, to connect to us. Strange government secrets, characters contemplating suicide and orphaned children. Despite some of the topics featured in the narrative, there is no content warning of any kind, so take this as one.
The gameplay is mainly just about walking around the limited locations and interacting with people and items. Interaction, despite this being a point and click, is slightly more complicated than usual, as it requires getting close to an item enough that the “interact” button is active and then you can click and interact with it. Unfortunately, it is not as straightforward as it might sound, several times I struggled to interact with things as clicking seemed to not accomplish anything and other times I had to reposition the hero.
The puzzles are mostly straightforward and focused on taking an item and bringing it somewhere else. Sometimes there is a distant glimpse of something more complicated (like in a machine that features glyphs), but it does not ever come to full complicated puzzle fruition. So it would be fair to define GRUNND as more of a narrative game, rather than an adventure with brain-taxing riddles, which begs the question: is the narrative worth staying around for?
Well… that depends. I am passionate about cryptic disquieting stories, and GRUUND did not let me down in that regard. You will visit several creepy locations, obscure clubs and strange decaying brothels. But, as for the overall story, as much as I want to be nice, I can’t bring myself to say it was very much satisfying. Perhaps it was also because I got bugged out of my ending and had to ask the developer to send me a video, but still, it seemed to be over way too quickly, with many things left unexplained. You are supposed to replay it and choose a different path or replies, but there still isn’t that much on offer.
And now, we come to my main issue with GRUNND: the dialogue and descriptions are filled with typos and strange sentences. Now, not being a native English speaker myself, it would not be fair to chastise those who don’t speak English perfectly, God forbid. But, if I ever had a script I wanted to work with, I would at least have someone who speaks English take a look at it. I could bring myself to say the overall “strangeness” of the texts adds to the atmosphere of the game, but personally, it only yanked me out of the experience. Even worse, most of the descriptions and dialogue are also voice-acted.
Bugs and technical problems can be fixed, but an unedited script cannot. But honestly, I find myself being much more forgiving towards GRUNND as it is the first game by the studio SEKTAHOUSE. It shows an understanding of how to construct a cryptic narrative while also giving vague hints to the actual background of the main character, without judgements or moral constructs. It feels free of other games’ need to respect the “classic” adventure design, and it tries to aim for a different experience. In that, it earns my respect.
If you’ve played your fair share of contemporary adventure games, GRUNND is a breath of fresh air in a genre often crowded by stories that don’t seem to have much to say or are content to just imitate past attempts. The audio design in the game is also well done. With some sparse atmospheric gloomy music and sound effects, this is definitely one you might want to play with your headphones on at night for the full experience.
So, who should play GRUNND? Definitely not those looking for a nostalgic point-and-click adventure like Mama Lucasarts used to make. Instead, it’s for those who want something different and can forgive some weird-sounding dialogues and some of the bugs (which the dev is actively working on). GRUNND might leave you with more questions than answers, but it’s in unravelling the meaning behind those questions that you might be able to find our train back home.
Our GRUNND review was made possible with a key shared by the developer. GRUNND is available on Steam.
GRUNND: GRUUND is a strange and disquieting trip into a bleak world where the sun doesn't shine. Despite some technical hiccups and a script which needed editing, this is one journey you might want to make. – Damiano Gerli