Management simulators are typically about farming for crops, selling goods to non-player characters (NPCs), and restoring old locations to working order. Graveyard Keeper includes all of these tasks, but with a unique twist of its own: collecting dead people, chopping their bodies up for meat, and tossing what's left into a grave.

As you might expect from this unashamedly morbid premise, the game is chock full of dark humor. However, the complex gameplay underneath the jokes feels extremely confusing.

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What do you do again?

Primarily, the goal of Graveyard Keeper is to fill and maintain a cemetery of (you guessed it) graves. To start with, you're given some basic materials, tools, and a few worn-down graves to repair. Once you run out of the initial resources, you'll need money. Thankfully, you get corpses delivered to the cemetery frequently, and meat is valuable in the village market ... you can see where this is going.

Essentially, you have the ability to cut people up before burying them, and then sell the meat fresh to unsuspecting traders. This nets you a decent amount of income, and you can use said income to get more materials for grave maintenance. Down the line, you can augment your moneymaking with crop farming, mining, and through the use of the donations citizens make to your church (once you restore it).

The problem with Graveyard Keeper is that everything flies by before you get a chance to figure everything out. Within the first 15 minutes, the game rapidly introduces you to the complexities of the mechanics, and then afterwards you're left completely on your own. To make matters worse, you don't even get a journal that you can use to keep track of what you're trying to learn or any of your quests. You're just expected to instantly understand.

More often than not, this led to frustration and boredom that made me want to turn off my Xbox. After several hours of attempts, I was only able to fully figure everything out by looking things up on the fan-created wiki.

Gorgeous and humorous

Despite the abysmal pacing, Graveyard Keeper's visual style and humor make it very enjoyable from a presentation standpoint. The graphics are pleasant and colorful, which makes the game world feel alive, and the comedic writing adds a lighthearted tone to the experience that contrasts the dark activities you partake in. From the communist donkey who complains about his capitalist owner to the talking skeleton who demands you bring him a beer, it's hard not to smile at Graveyard Keeper.

From a performance perspective, the title runs well for the most part, though there are some noticeable frame-rate drops whenever there's a large amount of NPCs, crops, or other items on the screen at one time.

Should you buy Graveyard Keeper?

If you don't mind doing extensive web research in order to understand the ins and outs of Graveyard Keeper's gameplay progression, you'll be able to enjoy the best of what the game has to offer. However, if you would rather not deal with the hassle, I recommend passing on this one and checking out Stardew Valley instead.

Pros:

  • Good concept.
  • Excellent presentation.

Cons:

  • Confusing gameplay systems.
  • Frame-rate issues in busy areas.

2.5 out of 5

Graveyard Keeper is available now for $19.99.

See at Microsoft

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