As you may have guessed from my previous article about Mighty Dungeons, I have been playing a lot of Mighty Dungeons lately. Like, a lot.
However, when I’m not in the mood to loot, pillage and explore maze-like dungeons, I have been obsessed with Big Fish Game’s Grave Mania: Undead Fever (note the title in the store says “Zombie Fever” possibly because someone didn’t get the memo that there are more than just zombies in the game…but I’ll get to that in a minute). It is not your standard zombie game – you’re not targeting them to blow off their heads, or trying to decide who among your tiny crew of survivors gets to live or die. You’re basically fixing them up for their eternal rest, whether they like it or not. Spoiler: they don’t.
Our story begins with the intro, all done as finger puppets (presumably managed by zombie fingers) that explains how tainted cake seems to have caused everyone who ate it to turn into zombies. Now our heroes, Bonnie and Johnny have figured out a potion that makes the dead stay dead. So, as any heroes would do, they set out to save the world from the undead….and make a bit of profit while they are at it.
The game starts with a tutorial during which Bonnie “tries out” the new cure and the player learns the gist of the game. The undead come in strapped to gurneys, and get hit on the head with an anvil. From here, the player needs to select and drag an undead to the location shown above his or her head – usually the formalin station (where they get pumped full of “cure”), though they can sometimes want to go to the X-Ray station instead, where their bones are properly aligned for their eternal rest. In the tutorial, you can also see the make up station, but its not used initially. Moving an undead to a specific station will produce either a picture of Bonnie’s head, or a picture of what must be done at that location. If it’s Bonnie’s head, you need only click on the station and Bonnie will manage the entire requirements for that undead at that station. If it shows the other picture, then a mini-game pops up, and must be played. At the forumlin station you fill a vial up to a certain level (no more or less), and at the X-Ray station you align the bones of the undead to the green map display. Then the undead goes into his grave, where Bonnie tucks him in and then he is catapulted to the graveyard to never rise again (in theory).
I was initially thrown by the mini-games. I, for example, love Barrr (as I’ve noted in other posts), where the point is to move the pirates through the bar (and each added station as the levels climb) as fast as you can. Grave Mania has a timed and a relaxed mode, but the mini games stop the clock until you’re done. They also break up the flow of assigning the undead to their appropriate spots and having the characters in the game move them through the “cure” as fast as possible. However, it turns out they’re kind of fun. Once I got used to the disruption and got into the flow of play, I found them kind of amusing.
As the levels progress, Bonnie and Johnny leave their small funeral parlor and go to other towns. There are additional mini-games between Bonnie’s curative undead assembly lines that feature Johnny putting the undead down, shooting them, putting them in a specific order with their preference of whom to be buried beside, etc. Bonnie occasionally shows up in these mini games, though whenever she doesn’t its primarily to get between Johnny and what he needs to do, and sometimes hit him when her antics have blocked several shots for the crime of actually hitting her instead. You know, give and take is important in a good marriage between undead slaying funeral parlor folk.
Also as the levels progress, the number of stations that Bonnie needs to take the undead through increases. Apparently they need to be happy to rest, so they get made up at the make up station, get put in clothes that they prefer to wear for eternity, need to have their specific oddities (safety pins, rashes, stitches and small balls with smiley faces) photographed and cataloged, and occasionally have ghosts exercised from their bodies. Between each curative marathon with the undead, the money accumulated for putting them to their eternal rest is spent on upgrading the devices and machinery Bonnie uses to reduce the amount of “hands on” work the player has to do, as well as the ability to purchase “accessories” for Bonnie such as improved weapons for hitting wayward undead on the head or better high heeled shoes that make it easier for her to zip around the curative stations (and many more). Additionally you use that money to train “tame” zombies to manage the machines (and who will do the work automatically if Bonnie’s head appears above the machines they are responsible for) and who will clean stations (apparently curing the undead gets some stations very unsanitary and they have to be cleaned before the next undead comes through) and different potions become available, such as holy water that helps keep the undead stunned. In addition to zombies – for which there are multiple types, each with their own specific behaviors if they are neglected too long and wake up from being stunned by the initial anvil – vampires and werewolves also come through the factory to be put to their eternal rest.
Just for variety – because not enough is going on in this game – Bonnie occasionally has to protect someone from the undead coming through the curative assembly line (sometimes there are just too many to keep stunned all at once) or stop undead squirrels or find potions or body parts for extra cash and to protect the machinery.
Despite my initial misgivings about the interruption during a time management game, Grave Mania grew on me. It has a free edition – Big Fish Games is famous for their “try it for free, then get addicted, then buy it” game philosophy – and it has a paid version, which I shelled out for at my acceptable, “under $2 limit” of $1.99.
While the mini games aren’t always that explanatory (I have failed on many of Johnny’s quests simply because I had no idea what to do until half way through the game), I did find this game very addictive. It also had a lot of hours of play in it and has some good replay value, as I now want to go back through and tackle some of the items I didn’t know as well at first as I did by the end of the game. On the whole, I give Grave Mania a thumbs up. One of my thumbs, not a zombie thumb, just to be clear.