Grave Shift Game

Isometric Puzzle Goodness: Grave Shift

Silly humor, challenging puzzles, and enough odd creatures to fill every child’s laundry list of spooks are waiting for you in Grave Shift. This game is all about moving fast, dealing with push blocks, and making sure to re-acquire all of the kingdom’s wealth back from a devilish, dastardly, and diabolical villain. While you are on your quest, you must figure out puzzles, evade enemies, and utilize power-ups in order to get to the very bottom of things. Grave Shift is a fun puzzle game for those of you with plenty of gaming time to spare. Those who only want a quick game however, might be surprised at how intense this humble-looking title gets.

Grave shift is all about the puzzles –figuring out where to go and how to do it best. Expect to do plenty of back and forth running around (which many gamers actually hate), since the game will have you retrieving keys and various other items from one area to another. It does get confusing at times, and the controls are not exactly the most intuitive for a game like this. But once you get a hang of the movement, timing, and the general feel of Grave Shift -that is when the fun starts to creep in.

How This Mess Started

The game starts you off in the audience of the King. In case you are wondering, he is the bald guy sitting on the throne. As to why you can clearly see his bald head and not a crown, we will be getting to that in a bit. The important thing to remember is that you are in the presence of royalty.

It appears that the King has summoned you to his court in order to give you very important mission that you must succeed in. Apparently, some wicked little villain has been causing plenty of trouble in the kingdom. His actual goals are unknown but he has proven to be rather pesky. The fact that he is also starting to become a really bad model for kids is also a cause for concern, mostly because they think that he is really cool. So it is up to you to get to the bottom of things and stop whatever he is doing.

Along the way you must also collect the kingdom’s wealth. Apparently, our villain is so efficient at his job that he also managed to steal plenty of gold from the kingdom –the king’s crown included. And that is why the king is also asking you to retrieve the crown. Not only does the crown symbolize power in the land, but it is also the only contemporary accessory that hides the king’s bald spot.

The next thing you know you are out on the field, surrounded by undead creatures, poisonous looking snakes, treants, killer spiders, and other weird things. And thus the game begins.

Odd Game, Odd Controls

Throwing aside the fact that this game does not offer much in terms of a tutorial, knowing what you need to do requires very little guesswork. The goal of the game is to find all the treasures in all the maps while surviving enemy attacks. In the process, you will be picking up keys and other crucial items that will help you unlock further maps. Items will always require players to solve some form of puzzle. It can be as simple as eliminating all the enemies in the map to doing something more obscure, such as being able to push the blocks to certain positions. The game offers little in terms of hints and guides, but if you pay attention to your surroundings, it will show you what your next steps should be.

The game is played from a top down three-fourths isometric view which pretty much disorients you with the use of the directional keys. Pressing up sends you moving to the upper right, left to the upper left, down to the lower left, and right to the lower right. This sounds simple enough on paper, but in practice, it actually takes a while to get used to. Take the chance in the first map to get your bearings right. There are points in the game where fast and accurate movement becomes critical to solving puzzles; in those cases, it pays off to have practiced at first.

Another important part of the game is knowing how the power-ups work; in many cases, the only way to effectively get rid of all the enemies in a map is by being able to run over every single one of them while the shield power up is still active. This means you will need to run fast –so be sure to learn the map layout and the positions of your targets before you grab the power up.

Simple Visuals, Good Humor

The graphics of Grave Shift certainly feel dated, and we mean that in the not-retro, not-good kind of way. In this day and age of finely made sprites, smooth character animations, and well detailed indie-games Grave Shift pales in comparison to many other games. Aesthetics aside, the game is still fun to play.

The graphics complement the gameplay heavily, though there are times when some of the foreground objects obscure key parts of the game. This can get really annoying especially if you are trying to complete all the jewels and items that can be obtained. Aside from that, the rest of the game works smoothly. You can easily view your current status from the HUD, and figuring out where the enemies are is all a matter of looking at the screen.  Some of the puzzles do use the visual clutter to help confuse you, and that can be frustrating at times when you just want to finish with a certain puzzle.

Grave Shift’s music and audio deserve some solid praise –mostly thanks to the fact that this game has voice acting. While this is not the David Hayter kind of voice acting that deserves massive fandom, we still appreciate the effort (and believe us, having voice overs in a game is not as simple as you may think). It also helps that the game delivers some self-depreciating JOKES; which makes the voice-over clips all the more memorable and funny to listen to. The script is silly and nonsensical, and at many points in the game, it brightens up the mood after some tedious puzzle solving.

Humor goes a long way in Grave Shift; players will notice that later in the game, some of the patterns for solving puzzles start becoming similar to the ones at the start. Repetitiveness is one of the biggest weaknesses of a game such as this, and having something to laugh about is a great distraction that takes the player’s focus into something more enjoyable.

Is This Worth It?

This game is fun to play, but it definitely does not fit in with your typical flash games in the sense that it is not something you could pick-up and play at any time. The game system is structured in such a way that you will have to play the game continuously, so it is recommended that you try this out when you really have the time for it. Playing the game from start to finish will take up a few hours. The good part is that the game does not require so much in terms of hardware. You could play it on a mid-range netbook and you will not have to deal with any skipping (though you may want to adjust your screen resolution a bit –in case you have a small screen).

The Verdict

Grave Shift is fun, but it has a very limited target audience –if you hate solving puzzles, and are loathe to follow narratives (which is what makes this game worth playing in the first place), then you are better off playing something a little fast paced and action oriented. The lack of additional character actions (aside from being able to push blocks) makes the overall gameplay repetitive and frustrating –especially since you need to deal with hostile enemies left and right. Still, the game has plenty of bright moments, some in the form of clever puzzles but most are in the narratives. Expect to find yourself grinning at many of the jokes, the concept is simple, but the delivery is witty. Grave Shift is certainly an acquired taste, but we still recommend it to anyone willing to spare the time. We give this game an undead yard dog’s 84/100.