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Raises the bar for all aspiring gamemakers

Grave Spirit is one of those rare RPG's that raises the bar for all aspiring gamemakers: inventive, gorgeous, and uniquely atmospheric, Grave Spirit reaches heights of creative ingenuity not frequently seen in this community.

Much of the game is shrouded in mystery: you play as a nameless, sexless, faceless entity, evidently possessed by some kind of shadowy ghost/demon-like figure, who commandeers his host's body for reasons that are largely unexplained. The game takes place in the shattered, uninhabited ruins of a long-dead kingdom, through which the character must navigate between towns, caves, mines, and castles, aided only by the shadowy passenger he carries with him, a spirit imprisoned in stone, and a handy white bird that can fly to those out-of-the-way places.

Grave Spirit stands out chiefly in two regards. The first, and most immediately recognizable, is the custom... well, everything. The chipsets are custom-made (and fantastic-looking, with a surreal Boschean quality to them; they look like the paintings of a madman), as are the character sets. And the second is the original score, composed by the talented Brandon Abley, who seems to have distilled the very essence of the game's atmosphere into a few MP3's that are as sparse as they are chilling. Better yet, Abley's score has plenty of listening value on its own, even when divorced from the context of the game.

This is not to say that Grave Spirit is without its drawbacks. The dialogue is unpolished in same places, which serve as an unfortunate reminder that you're playing a homebrew. A few boss battles excepted, there is nearly no fighting in the game; this isn't necessarily a drawback in its own right, but it does boil Grave Spirit down to mostly a puzzle-based game, and the absence of combat detracts from some of the survival-horror qualities of the game and cuts down on its overall length. Replay value is minimal for reasons described above.

But these limitations come nowhere close to outshining Grave Spirit's many strong points. Zohaib is one of the gamemaking community's strongest assets, and I look forward to his many games still to come.