Grinch, The Download (2000 Puzzle Game)

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Despite the retelling of the classic story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, written by the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, The Grinch, by developer Artificial Mind and Movement, offers a fresh and at times funny look at the irascible old coot and his unlucky mutt Max. At its mean-hearted core, the game is based loosely on the movie starring Jim Carrey, as well as the book, but includes aspects seen in neither, which makes the game a bit more than just a tired rehash of old material.

Undoubtedly, the most notable problems with the game center on the presentation, with clipping and occasional crashing issues, as well as loops that can possibly require a return to the last saved game. Control issues are difficult in certain areas of the game, such as timing jumps made harder by the rotating camera angles. The overall effect of the selective poor designs in operation is to create occasional frustration and a sense of foreboding as to what will go wrong next, but, fortunately, nothing is bad enough to be considered a game killer.

To be fair, though, the antics of The Grinch and Max make up for some of the teeth-gnashing problems encountered. Though the environments aren't particularly fleshed out as much as one might expect in a tale with such a storied history, the puzzles and interaction with the Whoville characters can be challenging and rewarding. Despite the repetitiveness caused as a result of some of the missions, the Mean One has quite an arsenal with which to disrupt Whoville's placid and sugar-sweet inhabitants, with the "arse" part of arsenal being especially significant.

The main objective in The Grinch is to collect his wind-blown blueprints that have been scattered all over Whoville environs so Grinchy can build innovative and evil devices with which to fracture the peace. Indeed, though he has other methods such as breaking presents with his ample derriere, incapacitating folks with his terrible breath, disguising himself by changing outfits in a telephone booth, and simply smashing Christmas accoutrements, the gadgets are the real centerpiece of his destructive spree.

The Grinch is a fairly long game, made even longer by the occasional tough controls, but the rewards of building the formidable Rotten Egg Launcher, Slime Shooter, Rocket Spring, Octopus-Climbing-Device, and personal Grinch Copter can outweigh the frustrations, though only the most dedicated gamers will stay the course. The use of Max to investigate and open areas that his ill-tempered master can't reach, such as the post office, is a wonderful aspect that adds fun gameplay to the mix.

A surprising number of involved levels with a wide range of objectives assures longevity and offers a chance to get into The Grinch's mean spirit. Despite the existence of only five major environments (Mt. Crumpit, Whoville, Who Forest, Who Dump, and Who Lake) which are nicely tied together, they must be played in sequential order, though you're free to pursue multiple objectives in any order within each area. Another nice touch is the unlocking of mini-games on Mt. Crumpit as a reward for destroying a pre-set number of presents.

The mix of puzzle-solving, stealthy tip-toeing, jumping, exploration, Grinch-gadgets, Seuss-like humor, and general mayhem elevate the title to more than a simple movie or book spin-off and should provide hours of entertainment for Grinch fans. The controls can be bothersome but aren't ruinous, though a few areas will take considerable practice in order to complete the task, effectively making the game even longer than it normally would be.

Action, music and voicing combine to make The Grinch a package worth opening each Christmas season. Especially nice is the choice of 3D acceleration or software mode, although the former is by far the most preferable due to the vibrancy of the graphics in that configuration. The environments are cute, cuddly and definitely "Whovillian," but the star of the show is without doubt The Grinch himself, who gets to do his worst before conforming to become the Who's Who before it's all over.

Graphics: Simple graphics create a wonderful sense of the world envisioned by Seuss (think back to the book) with bright colors and distinct characterizations. 3D acceleration mode brings out the best of that world, though it's still appealing in software mode.

Sound: Good voice acting, humorous rhyming, and a solid selection of noises to go along with The Grinch's gadgets.

Enjoyment: The fun adventure is nicely designed to allow free-form play within the linear leveling constraints. Mini-games add even more gameplay to the two dozen missions, with challenging but fair puzzle elements and thoughtful objectives. Nagging control issues aren't enough to ruin the overall effectiveness of play, but can be bothersome at times.

Replay Value: Completion of the adventure doesn't leave much unturned in the way of anything new for a second run through, but the timeless adventure invites an annual return.


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