A stealth title based on the Grinch - from the same development studio that made Metal Gear Solid? It almost seems too good a concept to mess up.
Good news - it is (or was). The Grinch works, and is the best game based on the titular green, hairy, Christmas hating villain. There’s admittedly not much competition, but this is still far above your average licensed fodder.
Some real thought has gone into it, and - although it’s far from perfect - it’s a surprisingly varied and tough title.
The core gameplay revolves around you playing as the Grinch (or occasionally his dog Max) and stealing a set number of presents in each stage.
Every level is made up of a few screens, and the only thing stopping you from snatching all the gifts are the Whos - and in Max’s stages, the Who’s guard dogs (I don’t remember THOSE from the cartoon/film/book).
As this is a game that’s aimed at younger children things are kept simple when it comes to getting round them though. Footsteps in the snow won’t arouse suspicion like in Metal Gear for example (just as well, considering the consistently wintry setting).
The Whos move fairly slowly, and as long as you aren’t standing in front of them you’ll sneak by undetected.
There’s a surprising level of depth for a GBC title though. As the Grinch you have a weapon you can use to stun your foes (considering what you’re doing ‘foes’ may be the wrong thing to call them though), and as Max you have a supersonic bark and can jump over the hounds. Crawling is also needed to get past certain obstacles.
You can even make the Whos and Hounds bump into each other when they’re chasing you too.
Being detected will happen, but avoiding being touched (meaning insta-death) is easier than you might think. Simply exiting the screen will reset everything, and outrunning your pursuers is something you can - and likely will - do constantly.
Even with these advantages, The Grinch is a tough game. The stages are fairly short, but die three times and you’re thrown back to the start of each one, with all the presents back in their rightful places.
This is enough leeway if you take your time, but the colourful visuals initially trick you into thinking you’re playing nothing but a kids game - and you may find yourself rushing into sections without thinking.
Although this works at first, you’ll eventually have to give some thought to your movements after the opening scenes (which have around 6 levels each).
This would be impressive enough for a licensed GBC title, but there are plenty of variables introduced through the game to keep you on your toes as well. Slippery ice floors, toy cars you have to drive, and multiple platforms just being a few of these.
The Grinch may have its flaws (there is a fair bit of repetition, and the controls do sometimes feel a little clunky) but it’s a genuinely admirable effort at making the cartoon/film/book into a game, and one of the best Christmas themed titles money can buy. Do you hear that, Santa Claus Junior?