Some secret spices can make make any game better - FM synth jams, grappling hooks and invoking Treasure's best among them - Grapple Force Rena does all three. Released today, it's primarily the work of Tim Ashley Jenkins and published by GalaxyTrail, the folks behind lovely Sonic-alike Freedom Planet. It's a cute Mega Drive/Genesis-styled platformer with mouse-and-keyboard friendly controls and a grappling hook that can attach to almost anything, including enemies. I played through it over the past couple evenings, and have some praises to sing. There's a web-based demo here, and a trailer below.
Grapple Force Rena is pure comfort-food gaming for me. It's fast-flowing, not especially challenging stuff (although there's a Celeste-inspired accessibility panel for anyone struggling) with a familiar style and a goofy sense of humour. It's also heavily inspired by Treasure's offbeat N64 game Mischief Makers, right down to its UI and quirky structure, with levels wildly varying in scale, objective and seriousness. There's six worlds in all, five levels to each, but aside from a boss usually residing at the end of each world, anything goes. Oh, and the music whips - FM synth at its best.
Young heroine Rena is armed with a magical pair of grappling bracelets that let her swing from ceilings and walls, pick up enemies or objects and chuck stuff around. Controls are simple digital movement, mouse (or analogue stick) aiming and the only buttons to worry about are Grapple and Jump. You click and hold to grapple onto walls, and just click to grab an enemy. Then you click where you want to throw them, and Bob's your unwilling projectile. Combat is simple but gratifying because your primary weapon is the baddies although even that gets switched up at one point.
It's good, wholesome fun. The characters are mostly likeable, and even the more referential humour (going all-in on Black Knight 2000) hits the mark - it's good for a giggle. My only real grumble is that I wish there was more of it. It's a relatively short and easy game, and took me around four hours on my first go through, with minimal deaths. Its scoring system and some fun achievements encourage return trips and speedrunning, but as far as I can tell there's no secret levels, bonus bosses, new game plus modes or similar. I can see myself returning to this just to unwind, though.