September 19, 2008 - Who could ever forget the charming and endearing story that is Beauty and the Beast? The classic, fairy tale has been retold through books, short stories, and animated movies. The story now presents itself through the eighth episode of American McGee's Grimm. Beauty and the Beast is also the last episode in the series' first volume. So is this closing chapter the Beauty or the Beast?

How about a weird hybrid of the two? While I'm a fan of the original tale, this episode doesn't quite live up to expectations in the narrative department. As the story goes, a father finds himself pulling a flower from Beast's garden. Upon seeing this, the Beast confronts the man and threatens to take his life. The scared man tells the Beast of his daughter, and the creature exchanges his life for the girl's. That is how Beauty meets up with the Beast and then you get your happy ending from there. While this is the premise of the story, the narrative was very weak and I forgot I was participating in the famed story halfway through. Also, if you're looking for a close tie-in to the Disney movie, you won't find that here. As with all Grimm episodes, this game is still dark and putrid.

Mr. Beast, I presume?
And this dirtiness carries itself over to the gameplay department, which still involves the same run-around-and-stink-up-the-place mechanic. Even though the gameplay construct was never engaging, this episode features a couple cool enhancements. When I say "cool" I mean it literally. As Grimm, you'll travel through a snowy level filled with slippery ice, which a welcome gameplay addition. Within the ice are huge crevices, which act as death pits. Combine this with the slipperiness, and you may kiss your stinky butt goodbye. Of course the penalty of death in the Grimm series is nothing more than starting over from a nearby checkpoint, but still, it's nice to see some new obstacles. However, pits aren't the only impediments you'll encounter. There's also bits of fire in a later level, and with one touch of the flame, you're toast.

This episode has a couple of good things going for it. The levels are sized well and pretty multilayered for the series. There are some cool light-to-dark visual transformations and the colorful, twisted art direction represents itself through some wickedly cool environments. All of this seems to run smoother than usual to boot. To top it all off, there are some decent and slightly varied platforming sections. However, for all of its enhancements, the series still has its shortcomings.

First of all, the dialogue is pretty hit or miss. While it made me chuckle once or twice, the actual phrasings are too wordy and convoluted for their own good. The series seems to think it is smart and witty with its dialogue (sometimes it is), but most of the time it just tries too hard. As for the flaws with the gameplay, in one level I was required to chase and "butt stomp" wolves that roamed the land. Expecting a chase, I ran up to a wolf and butt stomped it by pressing the jump button twice. The creature just stood there, and I completed my objective. I moved onto the next wolf, and the result was the same.

It's snowing!
Essentially, the experience is like trying to play tag with someone who walks but doesn't run. It's not very engaging. I also encountered a bug in this episode. While jumping into walls, I got stuck in a desk. I tried to wiggle my way out, but my actions were futile and I had to ultimately restart the mission. But that wasn't the only time I had to initiate a restart. I don't know if this was a glitch or not, but the first segment of the last level seemed impossible. For some reason my Dark-O-Meter was never satisfied, no matter how much I stank up the place. The birds in the area simply cleaned up my mess so fast that I could not progress to the next stage. I ran around the tightly enclosed space, picked up the speed boost, butt stomped the area to stun the birds, but once again my attempts were futile. I've always wanted the series' creatures to give me more challenge, but this was borderline broken. I got frustrated and started the level over again. In my next try, I beat the segment in under a minute. I did nothing different in my second attempt.

Closing Comments
When you compare this episode to the rest of the series, it's pretty good. It's got some relatively nice platforming additions, and it's a slightly more challenging experience. With this being the last episode of the first volume, I am inclined to say that the series does a pretty impressive job for a weekly released series. However, when you take its rough schedule out of the picture, history leaves you with a dull and monotonous gameplay concept. Hopefully volume two will address some of the criticisms I've had with the series and refine its storytelling process while continuing to push for more challenging, platforming action. While this particular episode makes some baby steps in the right direction, the series still has a ways to go. The art style already provides the beauty; let's just hope its gameplay becomes the beast in future installments.

IGN Ratings for American McGee's Grimm: Beauty and the Beast (PC)
Rating Description See Our Glorious Home Theater Setup!
out of 10 click here for ratings guideGet Ratings Information
6.0 Presentation
The tale's premise is great, but it's not presented to you in a compelling manner. Dialogue could also be simplified.
7.5 Graphics
The colors, the style, the transformations are all good. This episode runs real smooth. The graphics engine won't blow you away, but it does its job.
6.5 Sound
Some of the ambient music is pretty creepy. The voices continue to be silly, but sometimes feel too forced.
6.5 Gameplay
Simplistic and monotonous gameplay concept gets some decent platforming sections. A few glitches and or design flaws are encountered along the way.
4.5 Lasting Appeal
The longest episode yet, there are now nine missions, instead of eight. This translates to roughly 45 minutes of gameplay.
6.3
Passable
OVERALL
(out of 10 / not an average)