Developed by Lazy Bear Games, published by tinyBuild, Graveyard Keeper sees you become the local graveyard keeper after having been mysteriously transported to a chore-heavy medieval society. Your mission: manage the various corpse-related properties under your jurisdiction, complete quests, and perform other busywork that will hopefully conclude with a portal back home.
Story & Flow
The multitude of tasks typically involve gathering a resource, like woodcutting, mining, farming, and autopsies. Raw resources get processed into usable materials at specialized workstations, like taking meat from bodies to the kitchen to slice and cook it. As you finish tasks, you earn experience points that can unlock more advanced recipes and technology, which increase your efficiency or give you access to new activities. Forethought and preparation are the keys to a successful graveyard operation; unwise early decisions have disastrous ramifications hours later.
Days are short, and energy (which is used up doing anything) gets restored by sleeping or eating food; energy is restored faster when sleeping during the night, incentivising a regular schedule. The world also follows a weekly cycle, where certain people are only available at certain places on specific days. Many items are also only available after helping someone, advancing the main quest, or traveling to distant areas, so only focusing on one particular part of your property isn't very feasible.
Very little information past basic mechanical instruction is given. The right way to do something is rarely clear or obvious. For example, corpses have a rating that determines how much they raise or lower your graveyard's score when buried. This is affected by which parts are removed in an autopsy, and different parts will change the rating in different ways. Such an important amount of information is not explained at all; there was no way to be sure what results my actions were having, and only a fan wiki provided definitive proof. Dispose of corpses by tossing them in the river!
Unfortunately, the user interface also has problems; it's far too simple and often unhelpful. Time is represented by a rotating sun/moon dial surrounded by the days of the week, and your energy is shown as a blue bar. These metrics are not very accurate and lead to lots of guessing. You also cannot view blueprints or recipes in your notebook, leading to a lot of running around to specific construction desks to see what materials are needed. There is a log of known characters with any corresponding tasks associated with them, but is criminally vague and has no other information (like what they sell or buy, or their location). Most elements of the UI and work stations are completely vague, with very little instruction on how to use or find things.
In addition to the grueling manual labor, there are numerous denizens of the land that need you to craft or fetch specific items, or offer important services. These encounters are well-written and essentially serve as the plot. The main quest, finding a way home, will more or less introduce you to the majority of characters and locations. There is no time limit or apparent threat. The journey is yours to define; the only struggles are those of the working stiff. It's hard not to get lost in the minutia of tasks and goals both short and long term, while it is very easy to become frustrated with the lack of convenience or direction.
Graphics & Sound
The game's art direction is superb. Characters, objects, and the environment are rendered with sprites, which are all very clean, well animated, and dynamic. Trees and plants have a nice looseness that is disturbed as you brush past or harvest them. Water shimmers and flows, and weather effects, while not having any apparent effect on the game, look great.
The music tracks are put together well enough with soft melodies, though each area typically has one track that gets played repeatedly until the day ends or you leave the area. They now live inside my brain where I am cursed to hear them over and over until I am dead. The majority of sound effects are related to your actions, like walking, chopping, digging, or opening stuff; these are generally satisfying to listen to and fit their corresponding action well. Characters speak with garbled gibberish, which fits the style well.