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Graveyard Girls Review

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Don’t let the slightly flippant title persuade you otherwise: Graveyard Girls is a serious meditation on grief. There’s a reason why trigger warnings play before the game: its two main characters are suffocated by the deaths of loved ones – one having died recently, one a few years ago – so anyone in a similar situation will likely find empathetic parallels in this visual novella. It doesn’t go anywhere dark or disturbing, but you should know that it’s robust in its examination of grief. 

Graveyard Girls review 1
A tale of two Graveyard Girls

It’s an extremely simple tale of a young woman, Lucia, visiting the grave of her father who died a few years ago. It’s the anniversary of his sudden death on Halloween, and it’s the first time she’s come to the cemetery since the funeral. It’s fair to say that she’s repressed the pain, but it hasn’t worked. It being the anniversary, it has bubbled up. So, she brings her book to read to her late father, but falls asleep against the headstone.

Enter Elle. Elle’s sister Kate passed away a week ago and the funeral was only yesterday (Kate died from a protracted illness, so it was less of a surprise). But Elle is back, wanting to say goodbye on her own, rather than surrounded by crowds. On the way to Kate’s grave she passes the sleeping Lucia, wakes her up to make sure she’s okay, and then strikes up a conversation. 

As you’d expect, Elle and Lucia are at different stages of their grief. Elle is bewildered. She doesn’t know how to process from here, and is looking for help from people who aren’t cloyingly sympathetic like those at the funeral. Lucia, meanwhile, has long given up on confronting the pain, and has let it seep into every aspect of her life. She’s a mess, and only has a faint realisation that her father’s death is the source. 

Elle and Lucia hit it off. Lucia’s honesty is refreshing to Elle, and Elle is a beacon of optimism in Lucia’s more dreary life. So they grab a coffee at the local cafe, walk for a bit, and mostly just discuss the nature of grief, how to confront it (if at all), and what their lives have been like since. It lets you decide whether this is a burgeoning friendship or romance, but that’s rather unimportant in comparison to its meatier subject. 

Graveyard Girls review 2
Grief at the fore

All of this happens over the course of an hour of playtime, perhaps less. That’s short enough to be notable, and you should be aware before slapping £4.69 on the counter for Graveyard Girls. We had an inkling that it would be short by the sheer frequency of the achievements. We had to stop on occasion to let the achievements clear so that we could see the text underneath. There were that many. 

Is an hour long enough? We shrug a bit here. £4.69 isn’t necessarily a lot, but in the context of a single hour of reading it might be. We prefer to think of it in terms of its story: is an hour enough time to tell the story that they aim to tell? The answer to that’s a little clearer. While you could say that the bond between Elle and Lucia could be more rounded, and additional time would have made their friendship more natural, Graveyard Girls clearly tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. At least one of its characters changes, and you can project forward to a better life for them. That might be enough for the price of an iced pumpkin latte.

In writing terms, Graveyard Girls is reasonably accomplished. There’s a maturity to the writing that’s needed considering the topic, and it’s been edited well. We’re happily bereft of typos. But Graveyard Girls is very touchy-feely, and that might not be to everyone’s taste. There is so much self-reflection that it borders on narcissism, as its characters verbalise their feelings to each other for almost the entirety of the runtime. That might sound weighty and dry and it can be, but there are the occasional flashes of personality and humour. 

To my tastes, it erred toward melodrama more than I would have liked. It’s grabbing at heartstrings like a teary eyed harpist, and that’s something I can only take in moderation. But I know plenty of people who would lap this up and get teary eyed too. So horses for courses: if you like your visual novels and want hearts worn proudly on sleeves, then Graveyard Girls is for you. 

Graveyard Girls review 3
An elegant, mature visual novel

People who complain about a lack of interaction in visual novels will take umbrage with Graveyard Girls. There are five or six choices, which is about par for the average hour in a visual novel, but low in total. Those choices diverge for long periods but then snap back to the critical path, so while you learn more about the characters, you don’t change the events wholly. If you’re the type to chase multiple endings and map the various branches like a serial killer, then Graveyard Girls is not for you. 

A moment should be taken for the art, which ensures that the hour is at least filled with painted scenes, high quality character art and cinematic asides. Delphinium Interactive could very easily have pointed to the reduced runtime and said ‘stuff it, we won’t produce much art either’. But it goes all in, adding more transitions than you might expect. It looks the part and doesn’t take the cheap route out. 

Graveyard Girls is an elegant, mature visual novel that sifts through the grief of two different women. It doesn’t have anything revolutionary to say, but there’s comfort to be had here, as well as the pleasure of some fine company. Elle and Lucia are endearing enough to pass the time with. The only asterisk is its runtime: one hour may feel fleeting for anyone who gets attached to the likeable couple.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Simple but elegant art
  • Tackles a tough subject with seriousness
  • Writing is clear and mature
Cons:
  • Over in likely less than an hour
  • Very little divergence
  • Might be overly melodramatic for some
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Penguin Pop Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 31 January 2024 | £4.69
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Simple but elegant art</li> <li>Tackles a tough subject with seriousness</li> <li>Writing is clear and mature</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Over in likely less than an hour</li> <li>Very little divergence</li> <li>Might be overly melodramatic for some</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Penguin Pop Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 31 January 2024 | £4.69</li> </ul>Graveyard Girls Review
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