Title: Graveyard Keeper
Developer: Lazy Bear Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Genre: Adventure, Role-Playing, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 27/06/2019
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Welcome Keeper of the Yard
Back in 1986, Stephen King released his novel Desperation. At the same time, Richard Bachman (King’s alter ego) released his novel the Regulators. Two books set in the same time and location with many of the same characters but set in parallel universes.
This comparison immediately comes to mind when looking at, and playing, Graveyard Keeper. As a longtime fan of Stardew Valley, it is clear why such comparisons come to mind. While I am not attempting to say that Lazy Bear Games or Concerned Ape have tried to do here, but hopefully this gives an early understanding of the base form of the game that awaits you.
But the real question is, can Graveyard Keeper live up to the hype and stand tall in the face of such comparisons? Is it a must buy game for the Nintendo Switch? Keep reading, and you will find out.
Take in the Sights of Your Medieval Home
Graveyard Keeper is a high definition pixel art game. A style now being classed as ‘Hi-Bit’. The core base concept is that you are dead and tasked with running the graveyard in the pseudo-medieval afterlife world in which you find yourself. However, there is much more to it than that.
It is a visually stunning game that will undoubtedly serve as the pinnacle for all future games in this art style for a long time to come. There is a level of clarity and depth in this game that makes is something special to behold, yet at the same time never loses sight of the 16BIT art style that is was inspired by.
From an audio perspective, the soundtrack and effects used are a great compliment to the game, with enough subtlety to not overpower anything but at the same time, it picks up and ensure you don’t miss certain important events or items.
One standout piece of vocal work was the voice of the Inquisitor. It was particularly compelling and chilling. A perfect fit for the character, and different enough from the rest of the game to make him stand out above the rest.
Similarly, the nice touch of having footsteps appear and trail behind you when walking over certain terrain is an example of attention to a smaller detail that manages to add a lot to the game.
It should be mentioned, however, that this game is better suited to handheld play than docked. When playing on a larger screen, the text is far too small and makes for a lot of squinting and difficult reading.
A World of Many Dark Pathways
If you approach this game, expecting a shallow experience, then stop right now. There is a depth to this game that is almost unparalleled. There are times you could even argue that runs the risk of becoming a victim of its design.
The saving grace of this is that the game offers you depth but across a ranging playtime that gives you the freedom to explore what you want when you want.
Live the Cleric Lifestyle
There is a myriad of different ways that you can play this game. You can steep yourself in the role and responsibilities that come from being the graveyard keeper. Spend your time elbow deep in corpses, slicing and harvesting flesh until you are ready to either bury, burn or dump them. You can take up farming or fishing and generally live a relaxed life, giving weekly sermons to you ever growing flock, in an attempt to work off your penance and earn a way back home.
A Questing We Shall Go
You can follow the multiple diverging and converging storylines and attempt all of the quests offered to you by the many different interactable NPCs. Doing this opens up more upgrades and abilities that can, in turn, help you continue your relaxed life as a member of the (afterlife) cloth.
Thus the highly addictive cycle of this game is introduced. The deeper you delve, the more there is to pull you in the multiple pathways the gameplay allows. Get swept away in the endless loop of your new life, and get drawn deeper and deeper into the lives and lore of the many characters that share the world with you.
The real beauty of this game is that there is no right or wrong way to play the game. Nothing is forcing you to do one thing above the other beyond your desire to grow and explore.
Either way, the game has a smart system for skill points and expansion. You can earn money, but also either red, green or blue tokens. These tokens are gained from performing various actions during the game and can be spent on skill upgrades. These unlock new tools and machines that you can then craft to delver deeper into both free play and quest completion.
Given the wide-ranging spectrum for things to do, the game does a nice job of breaking everything up into sections, essentially giving you the ability to focus on a specific quest on a particular ‘day’. This can be a tremendous help and also helps afford you more freedom to play the game in both the relaxed and the quest driven modes simultaneously.
The day-night component of the game is probably its biggest weakness. There are six-day segments in a rotation. Rather than use weekday names, each one represents (except for greed) one of the seven deadly sins. The different NPCs and their applicable sub-quests are then active, or completable, only on their associated time on the cycle.
This is where the main bugbear with the game can be found. The day/night cycle is just too fast. With one day time period lasting a shade over 7 minutes. Combine this with the size of the map and you will have just enough time to get from one side to the other and back again, but given that your quests are often day restricted, certain things are a big rush. There will be times when you need to finish a quest but cannot make that distance.
That being said, there is a mechanism for fast travel, but you need to complete enough quests and actions before you can get there that the above remains a factor. It is not a game killer by any stretch but can be an annoyance of great proportions.
Bring Out Your Dead
While the quests and elements of crafting and farming are fun, we cannot shy away from the fact that the core concept of the game is running a graveyard.
This game is not for those of a delicate disposition and can get very dark at times. You can spend a lot of time dismembering the various bodies that are brought your way. Extracting organs and using them to make food … yes, but not in a cannibalism sort of way, or trading with certain NPCs. Disposal of bodies is for you to decide. Bury, and them raise the score of your graveyard or remove those with a high sin count by dumping them in the river or burning them on a pyre.
Channelling your inner Dexter as never been so much fun. Just be warned that you start as quite the back alley butcher, and need time to refine your skills as a surgeon to the dead.
It Is a Great Day to Bury a Body
The game runs very well, and as mentioned, deserves to be played in handheld mode so you can make the most of the gorgeous high-resolution graphics. There are, at times, minor issues with frame rate drops or graphical glitches, but they are few and few between and easily forgettable.
The loading times were one thing that remained consistently slow, taking anywhere from thirty to forty-five seconds load the saved game every time. It is a forgivable issue given the quality and performance of the game beneath that, but some may find themselves put off by the wait.
You Will Be Laying Flowers For Many Months to Come
Whether you are looking at starting multiple games, either as a throwaway first experience or to try and run your graveyard with different tactics, or only considering the addictive cyclical nature of the game, there is a high replayability factor in this title.
There is plenty to see, do and discover. New ways to deal with things and the simple, fun way the game goes about dealing with such a macabre topic will have you loading it up day after day for months to come.
You will find yourself enthralled with your dark nature and get drawn into seeing exactly how dark you will allow yourself to become, and then push on until it’s time to give your sermon and blessings because a quick atonement is all you need to help you make it through the next cycle.
Graveyard Keeper is a very deep and very well thought out game. However, depending on what you are looking for in a game of this type, you may find it overwhelming and a little too complex. If that is the case, then it’s probable that life-management simulation games are not your general cup of tea.
A game that is dark beyond reasonable measure you will undoubtedly find yourself staring at the screen questioning your morality from time to time, and the deeper you sink, the more you find yourself willing to bend to the will of darkness.
It will always draw comparisons to Stardew Valley, just given the nature of the game and their shared base level mechanics. However, the truth is they are vastly different games and deliver polarising experiences. Graveyard Keeper is better in some and weaker in others, but overall is a great game, and once you learn to accommodate the quick passage of time, you will find yourself putting more of your own into the game without hesitation nor feelings of guilt when you look at the clock and see the hours having disappeared.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Graveyard Keeper from the Nintendo eShop at the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Graveyard-Keeper-1579157.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.