Saturday, March 10, 2007


Title: Gruntz
Author: Monolith Productions
License: Commercial

Last month, there was an interesting thread on the CaravelNet Forum on "What are the best puzzle games ever?". I read through with interest as I am always on the look out for puzzle games. But the suggestion that struck me most was for Gruntz, a commercial game which was released in 1999. I had played through it way back when, and still had a copy in a bin, in a closet. So, I dug it out, dusted it off, and gave it another go. Ah, my pack rat ways paid off!

Gruntz did not make a strong impression on me the first time I played it, but it did this time. It has an atmosphere that is lacking today's games. It has an intro movie, cute graphics, funny voices, and a touch of humor. It is easy to say that all that matters for a puzzle game is the puzzles, but Gruntz shows that a bit of polish can really improve a game. It also made me sad that commercial game companies do not produce puzzle games any more.

Gruntz is a slightly complicated game. It is part puzzle game, part adventure game, part strategy game, and part action game. The basic goal of each level is to find the warp stone piece and return it to the king. You control the gruntz and can order them to pick up tools such as gauntletz (which break rocks), shovelz (which fill in holes), and springz (which allow gruntz to jump over things). There are also a variety of switchez which toggle various barriers and bridges. Then there are enemy gruntz. You have to evade or kill them. Here is where the strategy come in, making sure your gruntz have the right weapons to slay their foes.

Gruntz comes with 32 levels, and there are two ways to play each level. The simple way is to pick up the warp stone piece and deliver it to the king. The hard way is to also collect all of the coins, find the secret portal, activate the secret switch, and get the warp letter. There are special rewards for collecting all the extra items. I like this two tier approach. I actually played through twice. The first time through, I just collected the warp stone pieces. This only takes a couple of hours of game play. Then I went back and tried doing all of the extras. This way is very hard. I had to cheat and look on-line for the hints on a couple of levels.

I had great time replaying Gruntz, but it does have it flaws. There are too many items for the number of levels. They are slowly introduced which means that the key to most of the levels is understanding how the new item works. My other complaint is that to solve the extras on some levels, you have to search the map for the secret portal. This does not require a whole lot of thinking.

A minor thing is that the controls do not seem intuitive to me. It took me a while get used to them. I sent more than one gruntz to its death by right-clicking when I should have left-clicked.

There are some good sites for Gruntz. seems to officially associated with Monolith and contains a patch among other things. However, the link to purchase Gruntz seems to be broken. The fan site Paul's Gruntz Page contains a lot of info including screen shots showing you where all the secret portal and swichez are located. There are also a bunch of fan made levels here.


At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Nikolay said...

One of my all time favourite games. Man I'd love to see a Gruntz 2 version.

I'm going to find this game now. Give it another go like 10 years ago - a whole eternity....


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