Secrets of Grindea


Review by · April 5, 2024

Uncovering secrets can have a lasting impact, which is definitely the case for Secrets of Grindea, an old-school action RPG that provides an enjoyable experience if given the chance. That is, so long as you’re patient and remember that the game’s title holds a clue about what to expect on your journey. It should come as no surprise that Secrets of Grindea sometimes requires level grinding to surpass its numerous challenges. Still, it’s worth it once you’re triumphant in some of the game’s particularly challenging boss fights.

I spent most of my time for this review in Secrets of Grindea‘s story mode (there is also a separate arcade mode that is a roguelite version of the game), which begins with your customizable protagonist preparing to undertake a journey following in the footsteps of their accomplished parents by becoming a Collector. Collectors are capable adventurers who travel the continent searching for essential artifacts and special magical items known as cards. Still, you have to prove yourself first before joining their illustrious ranks. To help you on your quest, your dad lends you a family heirloom of great import: a sentient talking artifact known as Bag, who isn’t thrilled to be saddled with a wide-eyed kid as a sidekick but reluctantly makes do. You and Bag’s travels soon take you to different locations, including back-and-forth through time and even traversing the ghostly realm, as you uncover other talking relics of the past and a shocking conspiracy that could cause calamity to befall the world. Fortunately, the land has a Collector like you to step in and defend it.

To say more on the individual story beats for Secrets of Grindea would be a disservice, given the amount of care and attention to detail that went into crafting them. There are some unexpected twists and turns in the plot, with an impressive buildup as the game’s deceptively innocent and wholesome beginning presentation gradually takes on darker edges. Plus, the game’s script has an incredible knack for being tongue-in-cheek, managing to poke fun at tropes and archetypes in old-school RPGs while still embracing and celebrating them.

A boss fight commences in Secrets of Grindea.
Many impressive bosses await throughout your journey.

Many characters populating Secrets of Grindea’s world are well developed and memorable. My favorites include your doting researcher father, simpleminded but lovable Collector friend Luke, the taciturnly blunt guild leader Ivy, and the spoiled but begrudgingly decent rival Marino. Special mention goes to Bag, who could quickly have become an annoying helper given how frequently he shows up in the plot with his gruff mannerisms. His reactions, overall character growth, and later revelations make him memorable instead.

As the title and the game’s old-school feel might imply, grinding is the way to proceed in Secrets of Grindea. You regularly reach points where you want to level up more or gather extra materials for crafting more vital gear. Boss fights are plentiful and provide real challenges. I often had to repeat a battle at least once, often more than that, to develop a viable strategy to overcome it. Most bosses, save for the occasional repeats or variations, offer distinct challenges. If you enter a new area and notice yourself struggling against regular enemy swarms, then it’s time to look at your character stats and abilities and level up or do some of the game’s numerous side quests to earn experience, talent points, or new gear/materials. This process repeats itself at regular intervals.

A battle screenshot detailing quest objectives in Secrets of Grindea.
The Remedy sidequest is one of the more important ones.

Fortunately, some gameplay components help alleviate stress during challenging encounters. For instance, you can customize your character’s statistics and abilities. You earn skill points as you progress, which you use to gain and strengthen various abilities ranging from physical attacks to magical ones or even buffing/debuffing skills. Passive abilities, or talents, provide a much-needed offensive or defensive edge in combat. There are a multitude of ways for you to design your character build since so many skill options are available. You can also respec skills and talents to develop different strategies should you have the money for it, which I found helpful in the game’s later stages. My initial character build relied more on brute-forcing through fights with one-handed weapon attacks. Still, for survival reasons, I leaned toward a more defensive/magic-oriented playstyle during the final round of battles. Barrier and Fortify, in particular, are lifesavers! It is also essential to take the time to complete the potion-acquiring sidequests so you can strengthen all potion-related talents.

After learning an ability, you can feed more points into it to strengthen its effects. You can also assign a controller button to activate it during combat. The control schematic is easy to grasp, and you can fluidly flip through different commands, allowing for seamless action RPG combat. You can also raise stats using specific equipment to bolster your character, such as the vital “Crabby” gear that considerably raises defense.

Defeated enemies might drop cards, unique stat-raising items that grant constant benefits during combat, such as increasing the likelihood of dodging or increasing attack speed. Creating a significant collection of cards through grinding and farming can make a real difference if you are initially unable to overcome a boss fight. Once a card is added to your arsenal, its special trait will automatically come into play and serve as a permanent bonus for your character.

A phase teleport puzzle awaiting completion in Secrets of Grindea.
Just one of many puzzles you’ll encounter.

Of course, combat isn’t your only challenge in Secrets of Grindea. Sometimes, you need to get through exciting and tricky puzzles. The most unique of these is the teleport puzzles that require you to navigate chasms while avoiding mirrors that redirect you. One of the more frustrating puzzles is where you must traverse a cave filled with health-depleting poison gas. Puzzles are varied and range in challenge, but they keep you on your toes just as much as the boss fights.

Aside from challenging puzzles and boss battles, there are plenty of secrets to uncover in Secrets of Grindea beyond the main quest. I’m honestly impressed by the game’s amount of side content, as you can not only engage in helpful fetch, fight, and puzzle sidequests to help level grind, but you can also craft gear, design your own house, gain some adorable and sometimes surprisingly helpful pet companions, and even play minigames such as the obligatory fishing game. There’s a lot to do should you need a break from dungeons and boss battles.

As impressive as Secrets of Grindea is in terms of scope, content, and overall challenge level, that isn’t to say there aren’t frustrations. Overall, the game is exceedingly difficult if you aren’t willing to take the time to grind or occasionally experiment with different builds and playstyles. I never found it impossible, but particular boss fights toward the end of the game can be frustrating, requiring no small amount of patience to overcome. I repeated one final battle for several hours before figuring out the timing to an enemy’s frustrating and powerful energy attack, and planning how to respond to that helped change the outcome of that fight for the better. This is especially true of later boss fights when you have multiple fights in a row and a defeat brings you back to the start, regardless of how far you made it. There are also some noticeable bullet hell influences in some boss fights that can border on aggravating if you aren’t expecting them.

The game is playable either solo or with up to four players, though some endgame fights are much more stressful if you don’t have a companion or two to assist, as playing solo means you don’t even have AI assist companions. Secrets of Grindea is fun either playing by yourself or with others, but you might have to change your approach and strategy a little depending on if you’re playing on your own or in multiplayer. The game is verified on Steam Deck and plays exceptionally well on the platform, but its initial loading time is so long that I thought the game froze at first.

Shinsai lectures the protagonist during a story scene in Secrets of Grindea.
The game is colorful and full of gorgeous pixel sprite work.

Visually, Secrets of Grindea‘s pixel sprite work and animation are stunning. I love the level of detail in the characters and backgrounds, and the vibrant color palette is a sight to behold. Every character beyond your player-controlled avatar also has a detailed, cartoon-like character portrait. I love the charming retro-styled boss battle introductions that set the stage for those memorable fights. The music and sound effects are incredible, with some especially moving and dynamic tracks that help the game’s story and frenetic action sequences come to life. The script work for the English version is top notch, with few to no grammatical errors.

Secrets of Grindea is a passion project developed over thirteen years. It’s evident that a lot of care and thought went into the game, and the finished product is fine tuned and polished. Overall, I remain impressed with the title and feel no small accomplishment for overcoming its numerous challenges. Old school-styled action RPGs might not be for everyone, given their sometimes steep difficulty and the necessary patience to level grind. Still, Secrets of Grindea is a love letter to the genre that makes for a thoroughly engaging experience if you’re the right audience. It’s one secret worth telling.


Overcoming challenging bosses and puzzles is rewarding, ability to experiment with builds is incredibly helpful, story has a lot of heart, plenty of content to explore, gorgeous pixel artwork and animation.


Later boss fights can lean more toward frustrating versus challenging, loading the game on the Steam Deck takes time, be prepared for some bullet hell elements, patience is required.

Bottom Line

Secrets of Grindea is an excellent homage to old-school action RPGs.

Overall Score 86
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Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.