I would be willing to bet that many of us have doodled various things on paper at one point in our lives. There is something special about what our imaginations can create when we implement our ideas through different forms of art. I still have a couple of notebooks (from my early childhood) that are chock-full of strange ideas/illustrations and I still find it entertaining to pour over their contents from time to time. I have come to appreciate games that attempt to emulate the aesthetics of doodles/drawings that are procured from the depths of people’s imaginations. Grapple Gum ($1.99) emulates this type of art style and manages to mash a variety of gameplay mechanics together to create a “slingshot-action-platformer".
In Grapple Gum, you play as a small piece of gum that resides in a guided open world full of numerous floating balloons, dangerous doodle creatures, and abnormal bosses. The entire goal of the game is to travel around the world to collect a total of 3 stars. You accomplish this goal by grappling onto moving balloons and slinging yourself from them to grapple onto other traveling balloons. Various kinds of doodle enemies will try to destroy you during each level and you can shoot them into oblivion when you desire. You can also acquire different weapons and abilities between levels by spending the currency you obtain from defeated enemies. Some attributes you obtain can be carried over into subsequent runs. It’s a unique mixture of gameplay mechanics that take a little while to become accustomed to.
Once I became familiar with the controls of Grapple Gum, they felt accurate and responsive. This is fortunate, due to the fast-paced nature of the game. You grapple onto two types of balloon (red and green) by tapping on them directly. Once you are attached to a balloon, you can tap on your piece of gum and pull your finger away from the direction you want to send it flying. Each balloon will pop once you fling yourself from it and red balloons will give you small amounts of health when they do. You can also tap and hold your finger in the direction of enemies to shoot them. These are the 3 basic principles you need to learn in order to master the act of traveling around in Grapple Gum. Certain situations you encounter in the game will require you to quickly and accurately utilize a wide array of movements in several combinations. I really enjoyed increasing my maneuverability and it provided me with a great sense of progression/satisfaction.
Enemies are the main source of Grapple Gum’s challenge besides traversing the environment of each level. Some enemies will try to get close and chew your second-hand piece of gum, while others will try to intercept your path or shoot at you. Each boss had a unique trait that would cause me to approach fighting them in different ways and I don’t want to spoil any details about them. It was fun to see what kind of boss each level would throw at me and it gave me extra motivation to survive as long as I possibly could so that I could discover the next level’s boss. There is a total of 10 different bosses for you to defeat at the end of 10 separate levels.
I really appreciated the hand-drawn aesthetics of Grapple Gum. The guided open world appears to be on grid paper and the hand-drawn look of the game’s menus really give it a personality all of its own. Everything in the game seems like the doodles from a notebook suddenly came to life and decided to wreak havoc on a small (and unfortunate) piece of gum.
However, all of the aforementioned positive aspects of Grapple Gum are slightly dampened by its easy difficulty, long play sessions, and relatively short length. After learning the game’s movement systems, I managed to reach the 8th level (with relative ease) during my third playthrough of the game. Beating all 10 levels of Grapple Gum didn’t take me very long at all. There are leader boards to provide a source of competition and add replay value to the game but I couldn’t help feeling like the game was pretty short. This made the variety of bonus attributes (that I could permanently acquire) feel a bit worthless. However, the different weapon options, such as shooting multiple projectiles, still added more fun and variety to my time with the game. Of course, reaching higher levels required a good chunk of time per play session. This might turn-off some people who want shorter gaming sessions but I personally didn’t mind it that much. It’s also important to mention that quitting out of the app loses your current run’s progress.
Despite these flaws, I really enjoyed my experience of playing Grapple Gum. I appreciate its strange premise and mixture of gameplay mechanics. Blasting baddies, slinging myself around, and grappling to various balloons was extremely fun and satisfying. However, I wish the game was more difficult (or had different difficulty options) so that permanent bonus attributes would feel more impactful. I also wish that Grapple Gum’s length was a bit longer than it was. I still think it’s a great game and I don’t regret purchasing it. It’s available for a fair price and I encourage those who are still interested in it to take the plunge. Don’t forget to check out the game’s forum thread to hear other people’s impressions of Grapple Gum and feel free to share your own opinion of the game as well!