By: Capybara Games
Grindstone was one of the first Apple Arcade games I tried, and it’s certainly the one I’ve invested the most time into. I’ve been recording my journey and so far have over thirty hours worth of gameplay footage. It’s also one of the games that has gotten the most content updates, and the latest brings us not only more levels, but a competitive daily challenge mode called Daily Grind. As someone who’s been hoping for an endless high score chasing mode since day one, this is the closest we’ve come to that and therefore the most exciting update for me yet.
In the Daily Grind mode, you work your way through four different rooms, each one with its own requirements to open the door. You can either play it safe and head for the the next room as soon as possible, or you can stick around and collect the treasure chest full of grindstones and kill more Creeps and Jerks to earn more points. As with the story mode, the longer you stay in a room, the more difficult it gets. Creeps get angry and Jerks multiply, making it more likely you’ll get hit, or possibly even die. Since you get the most points for keeping all your hearts and making it through all the floors, you need to consider whether it’s worth the risk to try and get a few more grindstones in a room. In the story mode, there’s no real reward for sticking around longer and if you die you just start over. But here you have one chance to get a high score, so it has to count. (EDIT: It has come to my attention that you can replay the daily challenge as much as you want for a higher score, so I’m not feeling as great about it now.)
One of my biggest criticisms of the main game from the start was the way you have basic equipment that replenishes automatically between runs, but then also better equipment that you can craft using the materials you earn playing. It feels a bit too much like a mechanic you’d find in a free-to-play game, just without the option to buy said materials. You earn a lot through regular play, but it’s still possible to run out of certain ingredients if you use the consumable weapons often. At that point, you’d have no option but to grind for them (pun intended) or go back to using the basic weaker equipment that restores itself after battle. But that doesn’t apply to the Daily Grind mode.
In the competitive daily challenge, you choose from three pre-selected pieces of gear per room. At the start of the battle, you pick your armor, and then each room you survive lets you have one of your tools that can save you in a pinch. Since these are only being using for this one run, you don’t have to worry about the cost. Everyone gets the same items to choose from and they don’t cost anything. So it’s an even playing field. You don’t even have to play through the main campaign to get the most out of the Daily Grind. That said, the story mode does prepare you for each of the different enemies and mechanics, so it helps somewhat.
Now, as much as I’m enjoying this new mode, I do have a couple of complaints. I wish there was a way to see my score so far while I’m still making my way through the dungeon. It’s hard to keep track of Creeps and Jerks I’ve killed to try and estimate the score myself. And without that, it’s tricky knowing when to leave a room. If I could see my score is already pretty high, I might take less of a risk to make sure I don’t lose it all. Also, the GameCenter leaderboard scoring is strange. It seems to accumulate all your scores, but I’m not sure how it’s calculated, as I thought I had decent scores both days but I have 1/4 of the score of the best players. My actual scores don’t reflect that kind of math, so it’s confusing. I may just ignore it, anyway, so I don’t feel pressured to play every day and never miss a round.
Overall, I’m thrilled to see the new Daily Grind mode added to the game. It might not be the endless high score chaser I was hoping for, but it still taps into my competitive spirit and gives me a reason to check back even after I complete the main campaign. If you haven’t played Grindstone in a while, this is the best time to try it out again and let it suck you back in. You can download the game on Apple Arcade if you have subscription. And see my other Grindstone coverage here.