Game: Graveyard Keeper
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developer| Publisher: Lazy Bear Games | tinyBuild Games
Price: $19.99| £17.99 |€ 19,99
Age Rating: UK 12| USA10+
Release Date: 27th June 2019
Review code kindly provided by tinyBuild Games
Here at LadiesGamers we like a good management sim game, spending time gathering resources, crafting and farming. In Graveyard Keeper, developed by Lazy Bear Games, you can do all those activities and lots more. All be it with a very tongue in cheek macabre twist on what we usually find in a simulation game. The game has been a success on Steam, and is now available on Switch so you can play it in handheld form too.
If you’ve already taken the plunge and bought the game, our Beginners Guide might be helpful! Beginners Guide to Graveyard Keeper (Switch)
Excuse me…how did I get to be a Graveyard Keeper?
As the game opens you are introduced to a short story, in very familiar surroundings in everyday life. Our protagonist is hit by a car and whisked away from modern life and thrust back into a retro style world. He finds himself in a bleak and dark place, not knowing how to get home. In the dark he meets a mysterious stranger who informs him that his new home is the local graveyard and he is now the graveyard keeper. To get home he needs to become a good graveyard keeper.
Oh and one last thing….he is told to go and dig up some help in the form of a talking skull named Gerry!
Gerry introduces you to the business of looking after the dearly departed. You also meet a cantankerous donkey pulling a cart, who informs you his job is to drop off the deceased body at the morgue. Aside from complaining about all the work he has to do with only minimal pay of 5 carrots a day, he mentions that he will ring the a bell to let you know a new corpse is there to be tended to.
Can tending graveyards really be this intricate?
A short tutorial leads you through the process of collecting the body, putting it in the Morgue on a table and performing an autopsy. Yep, an autopsy, and I don’t blaim you for being squeamish about doing that. After all, being told by Gerry to slice off some flesh is just plain Eeew! Of course, after that the tutorial tells you how to bury the deceased in the graveyard.
As with all information in the game, tutorials for each activity are explained only once. If you don’t pay attention you’ve missed it as there is no log or journal with this information in it in the menu. After that, much is left for the player to find out on their own.
Your protagonist has only one wish: to go home. So when you meet a local Clergyman the most burning question is: how do I get back home? The Clergyman tells you that you must improve the graveyard and eventually the church if you are to go home. He will return in six days time to rate how the graveyard is looking. A week in the game is six days and each day is represented by a different symbol around the clock on the game screen. Some NPC’s only appear on one particular day of the week. If you miss them you have to wait until the following six days, so some quests can take longer to complete than others.
Time management is key
As with all management games it’s about managing your time, and time in Graveyard Keeper goes fast. You fill your days gathering wood, stone, planting crops, fishing, exploring dungeons, completing quests for the local villagers. You listen to their stories and dissect the dead and cook their remains into juicy burgers. Yes, you read that right: nothing goes to waste in this game. Cooking and eating the food you have made helps to keep that blue energy bar filled up so that you can keep the dead happy in a well looked after cemetery. It is after all their final resting place!
While you preform all these tasks you receive technology points which in turn are used to open up other technologies on the tech tree. One technology leads to another, so you can only unlock those further down the tree when you’ve unlocked the one above it. Once the technology is learned you are able to do more activities or make a particular item. This is important to progress in the game and advance the storyline. It also adds a nice touch to the game, as not everything is available from the first.
Pretty soon you find yourself with even more tasks to do and an ever increasing yard to make room for all machinery to craft all the items you need.
Crafting is core in Graveyard Keeper
The crafting system is large and it’s the core gameplay in Graveyard Keeper. It involves quite a few steps usually along the lines of “you’re in need of a new axe, however to get that new axe you need to craft simple iron parts from an iron ingot, for that you have to gather iron ore and melt it into an iron ingot in the furnace and for that you need to chop down a tree to get the wooden sticks to fire up the furnace”. Okay, you can breathe in now.
The map is quite big so a lot of terrain to explore with lots of items to collect. Exploration is important as it will further the story.
Graveyard Keeper may not be for every simulation game fan
You will get used to performing autopsies. Well, as used to it as anyone can be. Often you end up taking out the heart, blood and a few more internal organs. The quality of the autopsy can add to the basic quality of corpse, the gravestone and grave-fence will help improve the graveyard’s rating. And that is what you are after, for without that the storyline won’t progress.
I must say, you do get used to it. Think of it like this time you are not managing a farm and lifestock, but you are a managing the deceased, and all kinds of other dark aspects of life. The game does so with a a lot of humor, that makes you quite forget what you are dealing with.
Graveyard Keeper looks lovely with its pixel art graphics. The soundtrack changes depending on what area of the map you’re in. Sometimes there’s music, sometimes the ambient sounds and weather effects: all of this makes the game an inviting world to spend time in, even with its morbid theme.
Caution should be used however as some of the games’ theme and language may be slightly offensive to some, especially the young.
For fans of the genre: if you can get your head around the cutting up and burying off the dead, make no bones about it. Graveyard Keeper is a great addition to the Nintendo Switch, and it seems the life of an undertaker can certainly keep a player busy for hours with a wide array of gameplay activities.
I like it a lot.