Grim Fandango Remastered
Developer: Double Fine Studios
Publisher: Double Fine Studios
Platform: PC (reviewed on), PS4, PSVITA
During the time of 1998, Grim Fandango was an experience that set the standards for the adventure game genre for many beloved PC users. With its characters and compelling narrative, this game was an experience like no other, and many PC gamers still to this very day still regard it as one Tim Shafer’s best works before leaving LucasArts. Whilst being awarded numerous titles such as “Adventure Game of the Year 1998”, sales were shadowed by other releases at the time (with most notable games such as Metal Gear Solid and Half-Life). Poor sales meant that not many people got the chance to experience this title and it was said that as a result, LucasArts decided by that point to stop releasing any more adventure games.
Up until now, being able to play this game was nearly impossible as copies were particular scarce to find. Now released for Steam and PSN, Grim Fandango Remastered brings an old classic back to the light, becoming accessible to not only the adults who may have missed out on this cult classic, but also to a newer generation of fans.
You play as Manny Calavera, an afterlife sales agent who sells travel packages to people who have just recently passed away. Unfortunately working off a debt “to the powers that be”, the game starts off with Manny being really down on his luck. Stuck with bogus clients who cannot afford the luxury to embark on the express route, Manny takes upon himself to get his hands on a special client in the hopes of working of his debt more efficiently.
From there on out, Manny finds himself uncovering a corrupt plot that is somehow linked to his organization. Armed with only his trusty scythe and his fat demon friend Glottis, Manny embarks on a long four year journey, as he tries to figure things out and uncover the mystery surrounding all this.
This game takes a lot of inspirations from film noir and Mexican folklore. Accompanied with pre-rendered backgrounds, excellent performances and a brilliant soundtrack: this murder mystery game is great, and it’s one that is most deserving of the praise and recognition that fans and PC critics have been showing it for all these years.
If you’re wondering as to what improvements the game has made since its 1998 release, you can experience it first hand with a simple click of a button. Switching back and forward from ‘Remastered’ to ‘Original’, you can see that improved lighting and textures on character models have been made. This little touch provides not only an enhancement on the visuals appeal, but also emphasizes the noir tone that the developers were aiming for in various scenes throughout the game.
Cutscenes and the environment remain relatively the same however, which is fine because they appear to have aged surprisingly well.
A unique feature present within the remastered version is the incorporation of a point and click mouse controls. Originally shipped with a clunky keyboard control scheme (or tank controls as everyone likes to call it), the game now features both mouse and controller functionality. I played Grim Fandango mostly with the mouse, and it really does hold up well as a point and click title.
Another thing to point out is the soundtrack. As well the character models being reworked, the original tracks were apparently re-orchestrated too (with special credit going to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra). Whether this is a huge improvement or not, the tracks are an auditory splendour to listen to, and bring to life the jazzy setting of this surreal universe.
Aside from those changes, the general game appears to be very much like the original. Players interact with other characters to exchange dialogue, uncover hidden areas, and collect and examine objects throughout this crazy world.
I guess the most notable thing to talk about this game is the puzzles themselves, as they seem to make up the core of the experience. From the very moment you pick up Grim Fandango, you’re thrown into the world and left with no tutorial explaining what you have to do.
The objective itself is explained through character dialogues, cutscenes and exploration. The only real hints you’re given throughout come from observing items, characters and parts of the environment. Whether this kind of thing may frustrate you, personally I found this to be quite appealing. It’s most certainly a refreshing change to what modern games throw out at you (e.g. tutorial boxes and hint markers) as it engages players in the sense of encouraging them to explore things for themselves, with the only real thing stopping them being motivation.
Admittedly, there were times were I was left clueless at point or another. Believe me, unless you’ve already played this game, you’ll more often than enough be left in dismay trying to figure the occasional puzzle.
Of course nowadays there are walkthroughs for this. But coming fresh out of the game, I would recommend not to look one up. This game has some pretty inventive puzzles throughout the world, and greater satisfaction is upheld by completing these with no help whatsoever.
There are some gripes with the puzzles, particularly the ones that heavily involve heavy backtracking and exploring every little corner of the map. But otherwise, most of them can be solved easily with just a little patience and clever thinking.
- Great Writing
- Excellent Soundtrack
- Terrific performances
- Lengthy and rewarding experience
- A few puzzles may frustrate the modern gamer
- 4:3 ratio may disappoint
Overall, my time with Grim Fandango was great. With an engaging story, memorable cast of characters, and challenging puzzles; Grim Fandango is as entertaining as it is rewarding. If you missed out on this classic as a kid, now’s your chance to download your copy and see what all the fuss is about. This game had me hooked right from the start, and left me deeply satisfied to the very end.