Ready for some "up arrow means up-right" isometric adventuring? Grave Shift from Tangerine Pop Games provides all that plus a little puzzle solving, item collecting, door unlocking, and a dose of Halloween-esque spook for good measure. On the trail of the White Warlock who has covered the land in darkness and stolen the king's crown (it hides his bald spot, you see), you must trek through graveyard and tomb, keeping your health and courage up while avoiding snakes, zombies, spiders and plenty of other baddies.
Controls for isometric games are always a point of concern for some gamers, as everything is tilted at a slight angle. The [up] arrow moves you up and to the right, [right] moves you down-right, and so on, all of which translate to straight directions in the game's world. It's a bit mind-warping at first, but you'll quickly adjust. A help bar at the bottom of the screen shows you a few additional commands, such as tapping [spacebar] to dig with the shovel. Pretty standard stuff for an adventure game.
Monster generators, shown as colored "targets" on each screen, can be shut down by sliding a block on top of it, ridding the immediate zone of foes. Recovering stolen relics will net you extra gold, and King Krump would just love it if you brought some extra loot back from your journey. Food items such as root beer, turkey legs and potions replenish health/courage, both of which must be kept high to stay alive.
Puzzles are of the sliding block variety, so expect to do a lot of pushing things on top of other things. Often you'll have to skirt around enemies while maneuvering, which can be quite tricky. Defeating all of the on-screen foes often causes special events to happen, so if you're stuck, try focusing on the enemy generators and see if you can't make something good happen.
Analysis: Although the game takes place on an angled grid, you'll find Grave Shift is a bit forgiving about putting your character on the straight and narrow. In other words, if you're trying to edge by the corner of a fence and you're partially obscured by the obstacle, you'll automatically slide to the side. This is also true for block pushing, opening up quite a few possibilities to "bend" the game's rules and find alternate solutions to tough puzzles.
One departure from the adventure realm is the addition of enemies and health. Not only will you be pushing blocks and tripping switches, you'll have to do so while keeping killer trees as bay. Purists will long for a simpler adventure experience where you can stand and scratch your head all day long, while action gamers will feel greatly underchallenged. Straddling two opposing genres like this is risky and neither camp will be wholly satisfied, but the end result is far from disappointing.
Grave Shift is a well-illustrated and fun adventure game with a good sense of humor. Its four levels offer just the right amount of challenge and the length is spot-on for casual gamers.