The only thing spooky about Grave Mania: Undead Fever is how overwhelmingly difficult it is
Grave Mania: Undead Fever may seem like a game better suited to a Halloween-centric release (and it is), but the gameplay is that of any tried and true time management game. Unfortunately, putting down zombies in this admittedly charming title quickly becomes overwhelming as the difficulty isn’t kept in check and many gameplay inconsistencies quickly come to the forefront of the experience.
The storyline in Grave Mania isn’t anything horrifying, even though the game is centered on zombies. Instead, we see a plague begin after normal citizens take to eating a delicious pie that really does turn out to be too good to be true. The gameplay places you in the role of a couple (normally in charge of a funeral home) that must travel around the country trapping and preparing zombies for their final resting place through a series of “beauty” stations, similar to any number of games like Sally’s Spa or Pretty Pet Salon.
The number of stations increases as you play the game, and range from a formaldehyde vat to a dressing room where your zombies may request new clothes. Apparently heading into the afterlife requires a lot of pampering. You may need to place a zombie’s bones back into alignment, or give them a bit of a beauty treatment with makeup or accessories, so there are stations for that as well. Zombies may occasionally break free from their restraints, forcing you to rapidly tap on them to whack them on the head, and to end it all, you’ll need to throw each zombie into its casket that is then flung into the graveyard out back.
Each station has an attached mini-game that appears at random over particular zombies. At the formaldehyde station, for instance, you’ll need to tap on vials to fill them to a particular line without going over. At the fashion station, you’ll need to cycle through a series of outfits until the zombie’s smile indicates that you’ve chosen the right one. Completing these games adds stars to the zombies’ patience level, but they also break the flow of the overall gameplay and aren’t very fun to complete.
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in Grave Mania: Undead Fever, and some of the gameplay’s technical aspects do little to help the already high level of difficulty found here. You can easily have 8 or 9 zombies in varying stations at any one time, with all requiring a second click after you’ve moved a zombie to actually force your character to interact with them (a single zombie may also wish to visit every single station in your workshop, increasing your workload). When these zombies randomly trigger mini-games, you might find yourself losing your entire task queue only to have to click on everything all over again to set yourself back in motion (this doesn’t happen every time, but even once is too often). In the meantime, zombies are losing their patience and are therefore decreasing the amount of money you’ll earn from treating them when all is said and done.
You can upgrade your stations in between levels to increase their speed or overall usefulness, and thankfully these upgrades do carry on even after you’ve left a particular world or location. You’ll also gain the help of a butler early on, but unfortunately his helpfulness is entirely inconsistent (as are so many other game features), with no rhyme or reason given as to why he might help you complete tasks at one moment and why he’ll simply stand by doing nothing the next. Adding insult to injury, you can upgrade your butler in the hopes of increasing his productivity, but these upgrades ultimately do nothing. Of course, you’ll end up wasting valuable funds in figuring this out.
Every few levels you’ll be tasked with additional challenges, like finding hidden objects scattered around your current location, or levels that play like whack-a-mole as the zombies try to escape from the graveyard. These serve as nice ways to earn some extra cash, but the game didn’t need the additional difficulty that they add, as it’s overwhelming enough as it is.
Overall, Grave Mania: Undead Fever has an interesting premise, but ultimately lacks the polish that you’d expect from a must-play time management experience. The difficulty can quickly get out of hand and the mini-games are more annoying than fun. With some tweaks to the game’s difficulty or general clicking mechanics this one could have been something special, but as it stands, it simply isn’t.