Unity engine gets a bad rap for all the shovelware that gets made on it with store-bought assets, stock textures, and low effort messes that get thrown together with haste in an attempt to make a quick buck.
This is not the case with Grave Danger.
This infinitely charming 2-D puzzle platformer and its three lovable protagonists prove that Unity engine is an excellent and versatile platform to make games on.
You start the game off as Dante, a witty Cowboy who’s spurs allow him to double jump off of walls, this movement mechanic is unique to him and plays a part in the central gimmick of the game. Similar to The Lost Vikings, an SNES classic, you’ll switch between three different characters. Each character has different abilities that allow them to clear obstacles specific to them. Once you figure out which character you need to use to solve the puzzle, you’ll generally unlock a door or elevator to allow you to pass with the other two.
The second character you meet is a wizard, Elliot. He has the most potent offensive abilities in the game in the forms of a chargeable projectile from his wand as well as a shield ability that when used while colliding with an enemy, will almost certainly vaporize them. He also has the best vertical reach in the game thanks to his double jump.
The third is a hilarious grim reaper named Malice. This lively little bag of bones can float for sizeable distances allowing him to cross even the most substantial gaps. He also throws an oversized scythe that boomerangs back to him after a decent length. This boomerang effect makes Malice the best character for crowd control. He also drops “spirit bombs” that explode after a short time, adding to his strength in mowing down large quantities of enemies.
These three characters make the game. Their witty banter, lovable animations, and distinct personalities give the game a soul. It’s refreshing to see a game with such charm. This intangible “X-factor” is only part of the reason that this game is outstanding. The puzzle design is fantastic. Never too challenging to the point where you’ll be stuck on the same puzzle for hours, but never so straightforward that you’ll solve every problem with ease. Spotted Shark, the developer of Grave Danger, found an excellent balance between difficulty and satisfaction, which is no small feat.
In 2018 where season passes, day-one DLC, and microtransactions are the norm. Games that exude charisma, (and not in the way that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds claim a frying pan is iconic) but genuinely charming, are becoming increasingly rare. In ten years it would be nice to see Malice’s scythe spoken about in the same way as Gordon Freeman’s crowbar, or at the very least Hollow Knight’s sword, Nail. It’s unfortunate that Grave Danger hasn’t garnered the following it deserves, because it’s an excellent game and it’s damn hard to put down. It’s the kind of video game that makes you remember why you play video games. It may not be the most technically impressive, or even the best game out there. But it has heart, and heart can’t be faked.
“X-Factor”: Often games will be perfectly fine, but will feel like they’re missing…something. It’s this intangible, unquantifiable something that allows a player to sincerely connect with a game, and experience it to its fullest potential; Whatever that “X-factor” is, this game has it in spades.
Floaty Controls: Not dire enough to harp on, but occasionally the games’ somewhat floaty jumping mechanics will cause you to leap a little further than intended, or too short if you’re overcompensating. It’s not too complicated to get used to, but those first few minutes you spend acclimating yourself to the movement can get annoying.
While Grave Danger probably won’t go down in history as a beloved indie gem, it’s a profoundly satisfying experience and overlooking it just because it’s a Unity game is a mistake.