Gruntz is a puzzle game that falls somewhere between Pyro Studios' Commandos and Psygnosis' Lemmings Paintball. Like the former game, you control a small group of units equipped with various skills. Like the latter, the game is populated by colorful critters that like to pound on one another.
Viewed from a top-down perspective, the world of Gruntz is a colorful place. The landscape is filled with multihued traps and roadblocks. In the single-player game, you must steer a team of gruntz from the starting position to your king, who waits in his fort at the end of each mazelike level. Along the way, you must pick up a puzzle piece called the "warp stone," and one of your gruntz must carry this stone to the king.
A wide variety of obstacles stand in your way. There are raised blockades that must be lowered, pits that must be filled, buttons that must be pressed, and enemy gruntz that attack on sight. Each level adds new challenges or new ways to deal with challenges, making the game grow exponentially more complex, as well as exponentially more interesting, with each success.
To surmount the challenges that face them, your gruntz are given a wide variety of tools. There are gauntlets, which break blocks and rocks that stand in your way and serve as a decent weapon as well. Straws allow a grunt to suck up the gooey remains of dead gruntz. When you have enough goo saved up, you can create a new grunt to join your team. Toys can be used to distract enemy gruntz. Shovels can be used to fill holes (or dig into dirt piles to find secrets). The list goes on and on. While there's quite a bit to learn in the game, it is presented at a reasonable pace. You'll learn to use a few things at a time, and as more tools are introduced, you must find new ways to use the ones you are familiar with.
Combat is a straightforward affair, and the grunt with the best weapon always wins. There's no action involved, and the threat of fisticuffs with a better-armed grunt only serves as another puzzle to solve. The interface is easy to learn, consisting of only right- and left-clicking to accomplish any goal. The only real gameplay issue with Gruntz is the somewhat questionable pathfinding of your units. You clear a nice long path through a patch of spikes, but you'll still have to micromanage their walking through this path - left to their own devices they'll always take a straight line, even if that involves pits or other hazards.
Graphically, Gruntz is simplistic and colorful. The units look like little claymation figures, and the backgrounds change frequently enough to keep things visually interesting. The constant chattering of your gruntz may entertain you, or it may drive you crazy; chances are, it'll be somewhere in between. They have some sarcastic comment for every command you give them, ranging from pop culture references to more straightforward insults. Many of them are funny, and they're varied enough that while they may get annoying, they don't get repetitive very quickly.
Gruntz doesn't have the intense strategy of Commandos. Instead of presenting you with just a few very difficult puzzles, the game piles dozens of easy puzzles into each level. As a result, it isn't a particularly challenging game, but it is quite a fun way to kill an hour or two at a time.