Graveyard Shift [$2.99/Lite] is a new physics puzzle game where you are literally working a graveyard shift in a graveyard putting back skeletons that have inexplicably decided to pop out of their coffins. It features a charming art style that's Retina Display ready, a multitude of levels, and best of all some great level designs that are hard not to appreciate. It also doesn't hurt that the game is universal, and there's a lite to try before you buy. If you like games like Saving Private Sheep, Angry Birds, and Ragdoll Blaster, then Graveyard Shift should be right up your alley.
The premise is that you're a boy looking for a job to earn some extra cash, and you come to find that the local graveyard is hiring. For some odd reason, the skeletons from the graves have popped out of their coffins and perched themselves precariously amongst objects throughout the graveyard. It's your job to use the different properties of these objects and the physics in the game to get the skeleton back into their coffin homes. Some blocks can be touched to make them disappear, some must be touched by the same type block to eliminate them, and some just can't be removed from the level at all. There are also boxes of TNT that can be used to launch objects or the skeletons themselves to aid the task of getting them back to their eternal resting place.
The graphics in Graveyard Shift are nice, with lovely hand drawn backgrounds and crisp in-game elements that look especially great on the iPhone 4. The music is also very catchy and fitting, but the thing that really stands out about the game is the excellent level designs. Some levels are very straightforward, with the skeleton on top of stacks of blocks that must simply be cleared in order for him to fall into the coffin. But others are more complex, and almost Rube Goldberg-esque in their execution. For example, you may pop a box of dynamite that sends a ball rolling down an incline, that will then cause a latch that is holding back a giant pendulum to disappear. Gravity will then cause the pendulum to swing, and once it hits it's apex another box of dynamite is used to blast the pendulum further upwards into a platform where the skeleton resides, catapulting him into the nearby coffin. There's plenty of examples of situations like these during the game's 72 levels, and I certainly had my fair share of laugh out loud moments as I stared in amazement while the level played out.
As much as I enjoyed playing through Graveyard Shift, it's not without a couple problems. The biggest issue is the extremely finicky physics system. While it does create for some hilarious moments with the ragdoll skeleton, it can also cause objects in the game to behave wildly different from one play to the next. As a result, some of the levels can be frustratingly hard as you try to get things to do what you want them to, and completing each one is more luck than anything else. Somehow this doesn't really hinder the enjoyment though, and levels are easy to instantly replay at any moment, which you'll be doing often. The other issues with the game are very minor glitches where sometimes graphics don't display properly or levels load without any objects. These are easily fixed by simply reloading a level, and the developer is already working on an update to iron out these kinks.
Minor issues aside, I had a ton of fun with Graveyard Shift. The moments of figuring out how a level should work and then executing it, all while the ragdoll skeleton is flailing about the screen, brought a smile to my face every time. As an added challenge each level has a par for completion time and taps used, so beyond just completing each one you can also shoot for these goals. Unfortunately there's no sort of social network like OpenFeint to tie these accomplishments together, but at the very least it still adds replay to the game. If you are a fan of these physics games you should definitely try out the lite version of Graveyard Shift, and join in on the forum discussion for further player impressions and developer responses.