Skip to main content

Grapple Dog feels like a long-lost childhood favorite

When I was a kid, I wasn’t buying a new video game every week. I had a set collection of cartoony 2D platformers that I cycled between for years. I don’t have any memory of acquiring Taz in Escape from Mars. It just appeared one day and therefore it was a game I played and liked. I used to live in blissful childlike ignorance, where how much fun I was having superseded whether or not it was considered a good game.

Grapple Dog Announcement Trailer

When I play Grapple Dog, I’m taken back to that far-off era of my life. The charming indie game about a dog with a grappling hook, which launches on February 10 for Nintendo Switch and PC, shares a lot of similarities with some of my childhood favorites. It’s a fun, colorful, and deceptively challenging title that feels like it was pulled straight from my old Sega Genesis collection.

Good boy

Grapple Dog’s entire premise is in its title: pPlayers control a cute yellow dog who finds a grappling hook. That simple tool opens up a wealth of platforming potential. The pup can swing across pits, cling onto moving objects, and seek out hidden collectibles by quickly grappling between objects. For a modern comparison, it’s a bit like Celeste with a sunnier disposition.

Everything about the game feels warmly familiar, down to its structure. Players zip around six different, themed worlds (grass, fire, ice, you know the drill) that each contain a set of levels culminating in a boss battle against a big robot. Levels are filled with collectibles in the form of oranges, a delicious stand-in for coins, and hidden jewels. It’s like a Mario game where petting the protagonist isn’t weird.

A yellow dog swings with a grappling hook in Grapple Dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Some of its other ideas specifically remind me of my old favorites. It has bonus stages where players need to complete specific challenges, like defeating a room of enemies in a set time. It calls the original Sonic games to mind with their gem-collecting minigames. In a more explicit reminder of the blue blur, the pup curls up into a perfect ball when he jumps and can bonk enemies. Each little touch reminded me of a different game, constantly keeping a nostalgic smile on my face.

The aesthetics play into that as well. Most notably, the game features a stealthily top-notch soundtrack that feels like it was salvaged from a forgotten Genesis game. It’s a collection of energetic, electronic bops with samples punctuating beats. Visually, it’s perhaps more comparable to a Game Boy Advance game, using simple shapes, thick outlines, and bright colors to evoke platformers like Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.

Making them like they used to

Don’t be fooled by its friendly visuals: Grapple Dog presents a real challenge. Some late game levels and bosses had my thumbs throbbing as I quickly hooked and swung from platform to platform like a more technologically capable Tarzan. It’s the right level of challenge for a game like this. All the challenges are surmountable, but still tricky enough that it reminds me of all the platformers I spent years trying to master as a kid. They do make them like they used to, it turns out.

A yellow dog collects oranges by swinging in Grapple Dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

On the subject of difficulty, Grapple Dog deserves a special shout out for its accessibility options. Players can choose to turn off damage entirely, allowing them to just focus on the platforming, or enable infinite jumps. The flexibility is great for both kids and people with disability needs, but I found myself using them, too. When I was struggling on one of the final bosses, I flipped damage off for one phase that was giving me trouble and switched it back on right after. It alleviated what would have brewed into resentment for the cute dog game and kept the experience light.

It’s especially appreciated because, like a lot of classic games, it has some moments of frustration. In trying to introduce a new idea every few levels, there are a few duds. One level has players swinging and swimming around while being chased by a mechanical serpent. Just the platforming is a challenge enough on its own, so the added complication makes it a hair-pulling stage. Every rose has its thorns, and every Battletoads has its motorbike chase.

A yellow dog runs from a robot dinosaur in Grapple Dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Even with some problems (I had a few crashes and frequent frame dips on Switch, which should be fixed by launch), I had a delightful weekend playing through Grapple Dog. Prior to starting it, I had spent a good month slowly chipping away at the Sega games included with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. I fell in love with games I never got to play as a kid, like Ristar, and had been feeling a twinge of sadness that I couldn’t play more well-designed 2D games like that in 2022. Grapple Dog answered my prayers, and for that, it deserves a pet.

Grapple Dog will launch on February 10 for PC and Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Rita’s Rewind will make you feel like a kid again
power rangers ritas rewind revealed mmpr featured

During the Summer Game Fest live stream, a new Power Rangers beat-'em-up titled Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Rita's Rewind was announced.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Rita's Rewind is being developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Hasbro. Digital Eclipse normally specializes in remaking and remastering old games such as The Making of Karateka, Disney Classic Collection, and many others.

Read more
Long-lost Tarzan Atari game brought back from the dead
Tarzan fighting enemies at a green temple in front of a purple background.

Tarzan for the Atari 2600 - Game 1

An Atari 2600 version of Tarzan from the early 1980s, which had once been thought lost forever, was recently rediscovered and made available to play online.

Read more
The Nintendo Switch just got 2 surprise games — and they’re both worth grabbing
A teddy beat sits on an embroidery hoop in Stitch.

If you were unable to catch this week's Nintendo IndieWorld showcase, then you missed a surprisingly loaded show. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes got a May release date, WayForward showed off its Yars' Revenge revival, and Steamworld Heist 2 got an exciting reveal. In the midst of all those headlines, two smaller games were surprise released on the platform: Stitch and Sticky Business. Don't sleep on either of them, as they're both worth a purchase.

Both games are ports of previously released games, but both went a bit under the radar upon their original launch. Sticky Business modestly launched last summer on PC, whereas Stitch has actually been around since 2022 as an Apple Arcade exclusive. The latter even has an Apple Vision Pro version now that can be played in mixed reality. I can't blame anyone for missing either, but their Switch releases offer a good opportunity to catch up with some quiet hidden gems.

Read more